05/08/2021

Which is the way to the sea?

Think of tiny baby turtles, each about 4,6 cm long and weighing 20 grams, which have just hatched from their nest and become fatally attracted by artificial light. They arrived on the surface at night, or at dawn, after about two months of incubation and a few days of struggling to reach the nest’s surface. They should be guided by the reflection of the stars and the moon on the water or the reflection of the breaking dawn, to their destination – the sea.

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Loggerhead hatchlings start their journey at night or early morning, in order to run across the beach while the sand is in comfortable temperature conditions. In the dark, they can also go unnoticed from their bird predators.

Unfortunately, in some beaches, a significant number of them miss out the direction to the sea led by stronger lights from the roads, restaurants, bars or hotels. Instead of the sea waves, they meet the asphalt where they die under the wheels of cars, or they fall down into the drain grates or trenches. They may also get entangled in bushes behind the beach. As they try to find their way to the sea in vain, they lose vital time and energy. Being exposed to the bright sun, they will die of dehydration in a few hours.

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Artificial lights located behind the nesting beaches leads to the disorientation of hatchlings.

To mitigate this problem, ARCHELON volunteers take action a few days before the hatching of a nest starts. They create shading with natural material, usually old and new beach mats, so that artificial light shine less on the nest. The shading creates a pathway leading to the sea, so that hatchlings will reach the sea safely. More than half of the nests on Rethymno, Chania, Messara, Lakonikos and Koroni are protected by ARCHELON with shading from artificial lights during the hatching season. You can read more about the protection of nests and its results in 2020 in this link.

Why are we doing this? On the beach, hatchlings must escape natural predators like birds and foxes to make it to the sea. Once in the water, hatchlings are consumed by seabirds and fish. Few survive to adulthood, with estimates ranging from one in 1,000 to one in 10,000.

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It is well established that tourism and development, if left unmanaged/ unregulated, have a negative impact on sea turtle nesting beaches. There would be less hatchlings entering the sea each year, and the chances of having adult sea turtles in 15-20 years would be reduced.

It is also well established that plastic marine litter affect the health of sea turtles and that adult turtles are often victims of accidental capture and death in fishing gear. This is why loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) are considered by IUCN as globally Vulnerable and their subpopulation in the Mediterranean is considered as Conservation Dependent.

ARCHELON, a non-profit environmental NGO has been protecting sea turtle nests and raising public awareness on sea turtle conservation in Greece since 1984.

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More information is provided near the main nesting beaches of loggerheads in Greece: You can find ARCHELON volunteers in the following areas:

Zakynthos

Information Kiosk on Somolou Square (next to Foskolos cinema, info table at Crystal Beach and turtle spotting boats NEFIS & TUI

Kyparissia bay

Information Kiosk in Kalo Nero

Lakonikos bay

Information Kiosk on Mavrovouni beach in front Ocean Pub & Camping Meltemi

Koroni

Information Kiosk in front of town hall

Rethymno

Information Kiosk at Venetian Port

Chania

Information Kiosk at Old Town Port (opposite the KAM Center of Mediterranean Architecture)

Messara bay

Information Kiosk at entrance of Matala

Visit our webpage: www.archelon.gr

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