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Stranded turtle at Agios Kosmas, Athens

Stranded turtle at Agios Kosmas, AthensOne of the extra things that keeps Rescue Center Co-ordinator Pavlos Tsaros busy is talking to people who call to say that they have seen turtles swimming in the Saronic Gulf, including the sea near the RC in Glyfada. Itʼs interesting to note that sea turtles are becoming quite common in this area, even though the beaches are heavily used by local residents, there is a lot of boat traffic and fishing, and which isnʼt very far from the busy port of Piraeus. Unfortunately, some of the calls Pavlos gets are about findings of injured, sick, or dead turtles found in the sea and/or on the beach. In fact, in 2014, 66 turtles were reported stranded in the Saronic Gulf, and 12 turtles from the Attica region were sent to the RC for treatment.

This number is striking since at one time the waters of the Gulf were unclean and unhealthy for both animals and humans. However, due to biological treatment of wastes and also to the enforcement of building and land use laws in recent years, the Gulf seems to be thriving once again.

On Friday, 12 May, while I was working at the RC office on the next article, a local swimmer called to report a dead turtle washed up on the beach at nearby Agios Kosmos. I was fortunate to go along with Pav and the local port police from the 4th Marina, Glyfada, to find, measure, and help with the turtle. It was our hope that the turtle could be brought back to the RC for a thorough examination to learn more about it and the cause of its death.

Stranded turtle at Agios Kosmas, AthensThe turtle was a large male, whose carapace measured 71 cm. Unfortunately, the remains were in an advanced state of decay and could not be brought to the RC for examination, so arrangements were made with the local town authorities to remove the turtle and bury it. The turtle had no visible injuries, no visible ingested hook or line, etc., so the cause of its death is unknown.

According to Pavlos, based on the condition of the turtle, it had probably been dead for over 15 days. Some possible explanations for its death could be that it might have been ill, it might have ingested some plastic or a hook or fishing line, or it might have drowned as a result of having been trapped in a net. Pavlos felt that the death was most likely somehow related to the fishing industry, since May is a busy month for fishermen and, because of the economic crisis here in Greece, the amount of time fisherman spend at sea is increasing; this means that there is more chance for human-turtle encounters.

Many thanks to the port police and the town authorities for their excellent cooperation and interest in properly following the protocol regarding stranded sea turtles.

Joanne Stournara


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