Actions that can make a difference for sea turtles in the Mediterranean
Last May saw the completion of the 5-year long European project LIFE EUROTURTLES. "Everyone at ARCHELON (the beneficiary of the project in Greece) acknowledges the good results and important findings of the project, the experience gained, the new collaborations that were developed and the successful overcoming of the challenges presented during its implementation," says Daphne Mavrogiorgos, Director of ARCHELON. LIFE EUROTURTLES focused on those areas of the European Union where protection measures can make a difference in the conservation of sea turtles in the Mediterranean. It was implemented in 6 countries (Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Slovenia), through 9 Beneficiaries.
Collaboration with fishermen
It is well established that sea turtles are randomly by-caught by fishing gear such as longlines and static nets and die in large numbers in their feeding areas. The project implemented actions in collaboration with fishermen of 317 boats in 9 project areas. In Croatia and Cyprus the project tested the use of LED lights in static fishing nets so that the nets become visible to sea turtles which avoid their entanglement. In Cyprus, a large number of "ghost nets" that threatened the turtles with drowning were removed from the seabed of a large area. This material was converted into thermal energy.
“In Greece, ARCHELON manufactured and distributed in collaboration with the Hellenic Center for Marine Research on Crete a telescopic ‘cutter‘ that releases turtles entangled in longlines" says Ioanna Fytou, environmental scientist, who was the project manager for ARCHELON.
Rescue and conservation
Using a new transmitter built by the University of Slovenia, the movements of 61 turtles were monitored at sea. “We did the same with drones in Italy, Cyprus and Greece but also with lightweight aircraft flights in the Adriatic” says Ioanna. Maps were created for use by central government bodies in most countries, by using the data gathered from aerial surveys. The National Action Plan for the loggerhead sea turtle in Greece was drafted and endorsed with a Ministerial decision in 2021, following a collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Greece
Sea turtle Rescue Centers in Croatia, Cyprus and Greece have been refurbished with new equipment and facilities to respond to the growing number of turtles arriving there for treatment. A 24-hour Sea Turtle Rescue Hotline operated in Cyprus. Finally, a joint seminar on specialized treatment methods was held at the ARCHELON Rescue Center, in Greece.
Monitoring new nesting beaches
Enhanced nest protection actions were carried out in Cyprus, Greece, Italy. The identification of the nests was improved with the use of drones in both Italy and Cyprus. In total 4,419 nests were protected in 56 nesting beaches in the 3 countries involved during the implementation of the project. New regulations to protect sea turtle nests from human disturbance were developed in 39 nesting beaches.
"We found out that 2 nesting beaches in Greece (Kotychi, Preveza) produce mainly male hatchlings, a finding which is significant for the survival of sea turtles in view of climate change," said Daphne. "It is reminded here that the sex of the hatchlings depends on the incubation temperatures of the nest, so the increase of the temperature on the nesting beaches leads to a decrease of male hatchlings", she adds.
Communication and outreach
More than 7 million European Union citizens were informed about the protection of sea turtles in marine and coastal ecosystems. There were 279 public events, 36 conferences, 157 press releases during the project. Amongst the communication tools created were the project website, a video, a new exhibition and the new educational package for children, translated into national languages.
As in other Life-nature projects under implementation during the same period, the Green Fund of the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy financed part of ARCHELON's participation in LifeEUROTURTLES. Ioanna Fytou presented the overall results of the project at the event for celebrating the 30 years of Life projects, organized in the beginning of June in Athens by the Green Fund. "Many of these actions will continue in the future using the equipment and tools that have been developed," she said.
See more in the final Layman’s report which can be downloaded HERE.