Will the loggerhead sea turtles continue nesting on the beaches of Crete?
The annual report of ARCHELON for the conservation of the loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) on the island of Crete was published a few days ago and reached the desks of competent authorities. According to the information contained in the report, 446 nests were located and protected during the 2018 nesting season in the three main nesting habitats of this protected species, namely the beaches of Rethymno, Chania and Messara bay.
One of the most important findings is that, in comparison with previous years, the decreasing trends in the number of nests on Rethymno and Chania beaches has not been reversed. The mean annual number of nests in Rethymno during 2000-2018 was 203 nests/ year, still 47,5% lower than the mean annual number of nests during 1990-1999 which was 387 nests/ year. Similarly in Chania, the mean annual number of nests in the period 2003-2018 was 64 nests/ year, again 42% lower that the respective number during 1992-2002 (110 nests/year).
The continuous decreasing trend clearly shows that the negative impacts of tourism in the reproduction of this species need to be addressed without any further delay. Multilateral efforts for the implementation of management measures included in existing legislation for the protection of the species continued in 2018. The need to keep proper space available for nests and hatchlings on the busy beaches of Crete was communicated by ARCHELON to more than 31000 people, including visitors, locals and pupils.
The Directorate for Environment and Spatial Planning of the Region of Crete and the related units in Rethymno and Chania gave valuable support to the projects by organizing information workshops and surveying the implementation of the measures on the nesting beaches. The Municipalities of Rethymno, Chania and Festos as well the Coastal Guards were active contributors to the same cause.
Another important finding from our records of the nesting season of 2018 on Crete is that there was a slight increase in the number of beach businesses which complied with the measures by removing the beach furniture during the night in Rethymno and Chania. On the beaches of Rethymno 68% of the beach businesses made efforts to free space of the beach for the adult female sea turtles to lay their nests. The respective percentage was 65% of beach businesses in Chania. On the beaches of Messara bay, this percentage was 75% and it was unfortunately lower than the previous 2 years where it had reached 100%.
We would like to thank all the businesses that complied with measures, on behalf of the 150 volunteers from all over the world that joined the projects of Crete as well as ARCHELON staff. We would also like to thank everyone that actively supported the efforts for the conservation of sea turtles on Crete, the people living and working in these areas, the visitors and the authorities. We promise that ARCHELON will be there, by the nesting beaches, also during the 2019 nesting season to welcome the sea turtles and help protected them.