Sea turtles are not pets – please do not touch or feed them
Every time we forget that sea turtles belong to the wild, we or another fellow human being may be reminded in an unpleasant way. For example, if someone gets the chance to meet a turtle at sea, they may try to approach it by swimming to touch it, or worse, to throw some human food to it. The reactions of these ancient animals, however, do not resemble those of pets. A turtle at sea can chase you away from its living space. Also, if it has been fed at this spot by humans, it can approach you and bite you.
Are there areas in Greece where people have been observed to feed sea turtles? "Some years ago, in the summers of 2016-2017, we observed tourists feeding sea turtles in Laganas bay, a nature protection area established for sea turtle conservation," replies Nikoletta Sidiropoulou, the ARCHELON Officer for Zakynthos. "Fortunately, the National Marine Park of Zakynthos informed the owners of tourist boats in the area and we informed visitors in our kiosks. Consequently, no such observation has been reported from 2018 onwards," she continues.
It so happens that fishermen may throw non-tradable catches back into the sea when they empty their nets. Any "permanent" sea turtles near harbors may benefit from such an activity. However, increasing information reaches ARCHELON which indicates there are owners of restaurants or bars in various areas who engage in regular feeding of sea turtles at sea, in order to have them admired by their customers.
In March 2020, during a show of the famous chef Akis Petretzikis (Akis' Food Tour), dedicated to Mani, we watched the owner of a tavern in Limeni boasting that he has been feeding the 4 sea turtles of the area on the remains of fish, octopuses & squid, every day for one year at least. The result: 40 cases of bathers bitten by the turtles in the summer of 2019 and 170 cases in the summer months of 2020, confirmed by the Areopolis Health Center nearby.
This year, the Municipality of East Mani requested the assistance of ARCHELON to inform swimmers in the area. «We explained that in the places which a sea turtle associates with food provided by humans, it tends to treat bathers and other turtles as competitors in its feeding area and may chase them away with bites» says Panagiota Theodorou, Coordinator of Legal and Institutional Issues. The dumping of dead organisms and food waste at sea is not allowed, especially when it is a disturbance to a protected species. “Competent authorities for law enforcement in these cases are the Police and the Port Authorities’ she adds.
Knowledge of marine organisms and information can help develop more respect for the planet's nature and ecosystems amongst humans. Humans and turtles "we can all live together" as is the motto of ARCHELON's actions since 1983.
Dimitris Fytilis, Rescue Centre Manager of ARCHELON email: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel.: 6944 929 622.
Galini Samlidou, Peloponnisos Projects Officer of ARCHELON, email: email@example.com, tel.: 6951 009 785.