Tribute to World Sea Turtle Day, 16 June 2018
Turtles or tourists? We can all live together.
ARCHELON – THE SEA TURTLE PROTECTION SOCIETY OF GREECE is worried with the significant increase in numbers of beach furniture on the nesting beaches of the loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta during the 2017 summer season. We hope that there will be less furniture and better implementation of protection measures on the beaches this year, taking into account that all critical beaches are included in the Natura 2000 site network.
Beach furniture makes it difficult for sea turtles to come ashore and nest during the night. According to our 2017 observations, in the 13km of nesting beaches in Chania bay there were more than 10.000 sunbeds with beach umbrellas, double the number of 2016. In the nesting beaches of Rethymnon bay there was 10% increase, but the number reached more than 11.000 sunbed and practically covered totally the beach front. An increase of 10-30% was noted in nesting beaches of Lakonikos bay and south Kyparissiakos bay and reached 50% in the beach of Neda in north Kyparissiakos bay.
It is encouraging to note that an increasing percentage of this furniture was removed every night by the local businesses, thus allowing sea turtles to nest in these areas. In 2017, about 60% of businesses implemented this measure in Rethymnon bay, 70% of businesses implemented it in Chania bay and a striking 100% for the third year in a row, in Messara bay of Crete.
Artificial lights and human presence on the beaches at night, driving of vehicles, heavy beach cleaning machinery should be avoided. In the nesting beaches that are already popular travel destinations for thousands of tourists each year, ARCHELON promotes the implementation of simple and effective practices that minimize human impact.
We want to thank the businesses who help implement conservation and give a good example to others. Collaboration is needed as well as attention to simple and important things so that nesting, the first step in the survival of these magical creatures, can be ensured.
A 30% increase of beach furniture was observed even in the nesting beaches of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos in 2017, except for the strict nature protection beach of Sekania and Marathonissi, where beach furtiture is not allowed at all. There is more to it though, as in 2017 we witnessed a big number of violations of speed limits and anchorage, a higher number of dead sea turles and an out-of-proportion increase in the numbers of boats offering sea turtle trips in the marine area of the Marine Park
ARCHELON supports the implementation of measures and restrictions of human activities taken in natural areas of high ecological value. We have called on the prosecuting authorities in a number of cases, the most recent being the unauthorized race of motorcycles on the protected sea turtle nesting beaches and sand dunes of south Kyparissiakos bay in the Peloponnese.
Members and volunteers of ARCHELON are already present on the nesting beaches of Zakynthos, Crete and Peloponnese, informing thousands of visitors with information stations, leaflets, presentations and talks, practical interventions with municipalities and hotels.
In 2017 ARCHELON expanded its activity, doubling the length of sea turtle nesting beaches under its surveillance and the 2018 season has started with volunteers from all over the world. They are enthusiastic people, who experience the unique Greek summer on the beaches, while participating in conservation actions on the field.
Participants of the field work teams, amongst them students from many academic subjects, have already located and protected the first nests of the season and will continue working throughout the incubation period of nests up to hatching, when they will ensure that hatchlings find their way to the see.
Thanks to the protection measures of the nests layed in 2017, almost 130.000 loggerhead hatchlings, in a total of 195.000 that hatched in the beaches surveyed by ARCHELON, were saved. That is an important contribution to the Mediterranean loggerhead population, since it is estimated that only one in 1000 hatchlings will reach adulthood, as they fall prey to fish, crabs and seabirds.
Sea turtles have to live with human induced threats in the sea. Plastic bags, for instance, are mistaken for food and, when eaten, block the digestive system of the turtles, eventually causing their death. People in ARCHELON’s Rescue Centre have found big chunks and remnants of plastic bags in the stomachs of sea turtles with broken carapaces, lethally injured from speed boats. The Rescue Centre, also supported by a big number of volunteers, received 72 wounded or sick animals during 2017, of which 44 were successfully treated and released back to the wild, 30 died, and 20 are still under rehabilitation.
The Rescue Center in Glyfada Attikis presents the opportunity of a direct experience of the rescue and rehabilitation work for about 15.000 pupils and numerous visitors every year.
This year, ARCHELON celebrates 35 years of contribution to sea turtle conservation. We hope that sea turtles will safely continue their travels and that, humans and turtles, we can all live together, in the years to come.
Happy World Sea Turtle Day!
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