The loggerhead sea turtles are back to the beaches of Crete to nest
The arrival of tourists may be delayed due to the pandemic and the ongoing travel restrictions, but the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) remains consistent in its appointment with the beaches of Crete, as it has been for thousands of years. The first nest was recorded in Messara bay on May 25. In the meantime, the researchers of ARCHELON have already located and protected 28 nests in the beaches of Rethymno, 24 nests in Chania and 21 in Messara.
An unusual incident happened yesterday morning on the nesting beach in Rethymnon, one day before the eve of World Sea Turtle Day. During the morning recording, Mahé Le Blet, an ARCHELON volunteer from France, found traces of a turtle heading from the sea right into the garden of a beach hotel in Rethymno. Seeing that the tracks had passed through the open hotel gate, she entered the area and found the turtle in the hotel pool. Following her surprise after consultation with her team, Mahé resolutely dived into the pool and within 5 minutes, got the turtle out with the help of another volunteer and a citizen. They consequently let her go to the sea, where the animal gladly returned after its night adventure.
The route of the disorientated sea turtle was walked by the volunteers in 6.5 minutes but, due to its weight and the slow way it moves in the sand, the animal probably wandered for some time at night between umbrellas and sunbeds. "Fortunately, both field leaders in Rethymno, Mahé and Eva Horcajo from Spain, had previously volunteered at the ARCHELON Sea Turtle Rescue Center in Glyfada, Attica, so the response of the team was immediate and correct. The turtle returned to the sea in good condition", says Lydia Koutrouditsou, biologist, Project Manager of ARCHELON in Crete.
Every year in the spring, female and male sea turtles arrive in the coasts of Crete in order to mate and usually somewhere in late May the first nesting activity of females is recorded. A new life cycle of loggerheads in the Mediterranean begins with their nests on the beaches of Rethymno, Chania and Messara bay that are part of the ecological network NATURA 2000 and the responsibility of the Management Bodies for these sites. Sporadic nests will be found in other areas and especially in Sitia, as every year.
After 50 to 60 days the eggs hatch and the hatchlings reach the sea where their first journey begins. Little is known about the first year of life, but as they have many natural predators, a very small percentage of them will eventually reach adulthood.
ARCHELON's program for monitoring the reproductive activity and protection of sea turtle nests in Crete has been ongoing since 1990. Researchers/ volunteers, who despite the pandemic came to Crete again from Greece and abroad, are surveying the beaches daily, recording and protecting nests. The vigilance of the Environmental Services of the Regional Units and the Region of Crete, as well as of the Coast Guard is valuable, as well as the cooperation of local companies for the observance of protection measures.
We can enjoy the summer and the sea without disturbing the turtles and their nests, if we apply the following:
• In the period May - October the cleaning of the beach should be done only manually. Heavy vehicles should not be used as they will destroy the nests.
• Vehicles are not allowed to enter and drive on the beach.
• Sunbeds and umbrellas should be placed on rows perpendicular to the wave and at a distance of more than 3 meters from each other. Sunbeds should be removed / hung high every night (at sunset) to make room for sea turtles to breed, according to current legislation.
• The sand between the beach furniture should not be covered by wooden corridors.
• Beach furniture should be washed in an area further up from the sand, so that nests will not get flooded.
• Beach parties are not allowed.
• Human presence, noise and artificial lighting should be avoided on the beach during the night.
• Remember that sea turtles live free in the wild- avoid feeding or touching them.
• The traces of turtles and hatchlings on the beach must be left intact, until the daily survey is done by the research team of ARCHELON.
With these small moves of caring, we will all be able to actively participate in the protection of this ancient species, the oldest visitor to the beaches of Crete.
ARCHELON, Lydia Koutrouditsou, Program Manager of Crete, tel. 693 735 2379
Samaria National Park – Western Crete Management Body: tel. 2821045570
Eastern Crete Management Body: tel. 2810393265