Monitoring and Conservation of Important Sea Turtle Feeding Grounds in the Patok Area of Albania, 2008-2010
2008 ANNUAL REPORT Michael White1, Idriz Haxhiu2,5, Enerit Saçdanaku3, Lazion Petritaj3, Merita Rumano4, Fundime Osmani2, Blerina Vrenozi2, Prue Robinson6, Stephanos Kouris6, Liza Boura6 and Lily Venizelos6. Centro Recupero Tartarughe Marine, Lampedusa1; Museum of Natural Sciences, University of Tirana2; Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Tirana3; Ministry of Environment, Tirana4; Herpetofauna Albanian Society5; MEDASSET‐ The Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles6. Correspondence to: Dr Michael White, c/o Centro Recupero Tartarughe Marine‐WWF, 92010 Lampedusa (AG), Italy. E‐mail: email@example.com ‐JANUARY 2009‐
ABSTRACT The first year of a three year research project (2008‐2010) began at Patoku Lagoon, Albania, in June 2008, monitoring an important sea turtle foraging ground. The project included researchers from Tirana University. The population structure of loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta captured as bycatch in stavnike fish‐traps was investigated. The traps yielded 103 turtles, which were tagged and released; 17 were subsequently recaptured thus suggesting short term residency in the Bay. Ten remigrants had been tagged previously at Patok suggesting that Albania forms part of their migratory route. There was one juvenile green turtle Chelonia mydas. Male sea turtles (4 adults, 14 adolescents) were captured at Patoku, suggesting that they may use the area as a developmental and foraging habitat. This discovery has increased importance due to our presently limited understanding of the distribution and marine ecology of male sea turtles; and the threatened impact of global climate‐change, which may force embryonic sex‐ratios towards female‐dominance. Therefore it is recommended that Gjiri i Drinit is legally recognised as a nationally and regionally important foraging habitat for sea turtles; and that these endangered migratory species are fully protected under Albanian national law. Total cost of project: 38.593,74 EUR Please reference as: White, M., I. Haxhiu, E. Saçdanaku, L. Petritaj, M. Rumano, F. Osmani, B. Vrenozi, P. Robinson, S. Kouris, L. Boura and L. Venizelos (2009). Monitoring and Conservation of Important Sea Turtle Feeding Grounds in the Patok Area of Albania. 2008 Annual Report. Joint project of: MEDASSET; GEF/SGP; RAC/SPA (UNEP/MAP); Ministry of Environment, Albania; Natural History Museum, Albania; H.A.S., Albania; University of Tirana; ECAT, Albania. 91 pages
LIST OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT................................................................................................................................................. 2 LIST OF CONTENTS ................................................................................................................................... 3 LIST OF FIGURES ....................................................................................................................................... 5 1.
BACKGROUND .................................................................................................................................. 6
MONITORING OF SEA TURTLES AT PATOK (2008) ........................................................................... 6
Study area ................................................................................................................................... 7
Sea areas ................................................................................................................................. 8
Stavnikes ................................................................................................................................... 13
Trap construction.................................................................................................................. 13
Fish catch .............................................................................................................................. 14
Stavnike fishermen ............................................................................................................... 14
Other stavnikes in Gjiri i Drinit.............................................................................................. 17
MONITORING FISH CATCH ............................................................................................................. 18
Catch composition..................................................................................................................... 19 SEA TURTLES................................................................................................................................... 23
At‐sea encounters with turtles.................................................................................................. 23
Sea turtles: morphometric data................................................................................................ 23
Carapace scutes......................................................................................................................... 24
Flipper‐tagging .......................................................................................................................... 25
Stockbrand’s tags vs. Rototags ............................................................................................. 25
Tagging database .................................................................................................................. 27
Data collection ...................................................................................................................... 28
Photo‐recognition of sea turtles ............................................................................................... 29 Head‐scale patterns .............................................................................................................. 29 3
Other factors that aid recognition ........................................................................................ 31
SEA TURTLES CAPTURED AS FISHERIES BYCATCH (2008)............................................................... 32
Turtle Morphometric Data........................................................................................................ 33
Sex ............................................................................................................................................. 35
Male turtles............................................................................................................................... 36
Juvenile developmental habitat................................................................................................ 37
Green sea turtle Chelonia mydas.............................................................................................. 37
Serial recaptures ....................................................................................................................... 38
Remigrants ................................................................................................................................ 38
Health status ............................................................................................................................. 38
Epibiotic fauna........................................................................................................................... 39
Overwintering ........................................................................................................................... 41
Conclusions ............................................................................................................................... 42
Anecdotal evidence................................................................................................................... 43
PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT .............................................................................................................. 44
CONSERVATION AND OUTREACH ACTIVITIES (2008 – 2010)......................................................... 47
Capacity‐building and awareness‐raising activities .................................................................. 47
Research assistants at Patok for 2009 ...................................................................................... 51
The importance of Gjiri i Drinit ................................................................................................. 51
The importance of working with the local fishing communities............................................... 53
Other monitoring activities ....................................................................................................... 55
Collaboration with other research organisations ..................................................................... 55
PROJECT MANAGEMENT................................................................................................................ 56
Regional Activity Centre for Specially protected Areas (RAC/SPA) ...................................... 57
Global Environment Facility’s Small Grant Programme (GEF/SGP) ...................................... 57
Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles – MEDASSET GR and UK ..................... 58
CONCLUSIONS ........................................................................................................................... 58
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE YEARS AT PATOKU............................................................ 59
PHASE II ‐ THE 2009 PROJECT.................................................................................................... 60
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................................. 61
ANNEXES ................................................................................................................................... 69
LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: Gjiri i Drinit divided into two main sea areas: SH and PA ......................................................... 9 Figure 2: Typical design of a stavnike fish‐trap (Photo: I. Haxhiu). ........................................................ 14 Figure 3: Gjiri i Drinit: the red flags indicate stavnikes observed during 2008 ...................................... 16 Figure 4 Data‐entry window of the new tagging database (MEDASSET)............................................... 28 Figure 5: Curved Carapace Length (CCL) size‐classes (cm) for 98 loggerheads caught in the stavnikes at Ishmit and Matit..................................................................................................................................... 34 Figure 6. Pellgu i Drinit. Red arrow shows where Lumi i Ishmit enters Drinit bay at Godull; blue arrow indicates predominant wind‐direction (Maestrali). The beaches near to Ishmit are heavily‐polluted with, mostly, plastic waste..................................................................................................................... 45
1. BACKGROUND Within the framework of the Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean Region (SAP BIO) and the implementation of the Action Plan for the Management of the Mediterranean Monk Seal and for the Action Plan for the Conservation of Mediterranean Marine Turtles under the United Nations Environment Programme Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP), a Rapid Assessment Survey of important Marine Turtle and Monk Seal habitats in the coastal area of Albania was carried out in October‐November 2005 by MEDASSET; the Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles, with the financial support of UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA); MEDASSET; and the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grant Programme (GEF/SGP). The research boat was provided by Vernicos Yachts. Support was provided by the Biology Department of the University of Tirana, the Port Authorities along the Albanian coast; the Albanian Ministry of Environment, fishermen and local people. This Rapid Assessment laid the groundwork for developing the present Project: Monitoring and Conservation of Important Sea Turtle Feeding Grounds in the Patok Area of Albania. MEDASSET’s Rapid Assessment Survey (White, M., I. Haxhiu, V. Kouroutos et al. 2006) provided strong evidence indicating that Patok has a high concentration of loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta (Linnaeus, 1758) throughout the year (especially between April and August) and could be an important feeding ground for sea turtles. During the project fishermen throughout Albania were interviewed about their encounters with turtles, seals and cetaceans. An important finding from these interviews was that large numbers of sea turtles (100 +) were reported from Albania’s northernmost bay at Patok; but they were rare, perhaps 2‐6 turtles in some years, in southern Albania. Loggerhead turtles were caught as bycatch in stavnike fish‐traps and trawling operations in the broader Patok area: Gjiri i Drinit (White et al. 2006).
2. MONITORING OF SEA TURTLES AT PATOK (2008) The project aimed to develop and implement an ongoing sea turtle research programme (population estimates, tagging, morphometrics, health status and environmental conditions), as well as a public awareness and capacity‐building in the broader Patok area. Establishing the project at Patoku would highlight the importance of local sea turtle feeding grounds and improve sea turtle conservation and protection, particularly for their marine habitats and migratory routes. Despite its richness in biological and landscape diversity, Albania is considered to have the highest rate of biodiversity loss in Europe; (Scandiaconsult Natura AB and The Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe, July 2000) uncontrolled human activity has extensively damaged the ecological values of the coastal area (RDS, 2005; REAP, 2006). Educational programmes are needed to provide the population with an incentive to preserve its rich biodiversity; this should include conservation of sea turtles and their habitats in Albania. In order to enhance national cooperation there is a strong need to involve governmental, inter‐governmental and non‐governmental bodies, as
well as environmental and volunteer groups. Emphasis should be placed on improving linkages between communities, researchers, universities and NGOs involved in environmental protection around the Mediterranean. This would lead to better biodiversity conservation and management of the area’s marine natural resources (e.g. fisheries). Conservation and management plans rely upon the provision of accurate data to inform and influence local authorities, municipalities and fishermen. Reliable baseline data concerning sea turtle distribution, both geographically and temporally, will add to our limited knowledge of Mediterranean sea turtle foraging habitats (Bjorndal, 1999; Margaritoulis et al. 2003; White, 2007). It took two years to plan, develop, and to secure initial funding for this project, which is working within the framework of MEDASSET's sea turtle conservation programme in the Mediterranean, with the aim of facilitating management decisions that may safeguard long‐term existence of these crucial habitats and of training local individuals in the necessary skills for the protection and monitoring of marine turtles; fieldwork began at Patoku Lagoon on the 1st of June 2008.
2.1. Study area Patok In the northernmost part of the Western Lowlands of Albania there is a lagoon at Patok [N41°38.191′; E019°35.32′]. A narrow causeway runs across wetlands (marsh) and the inner lagoon to a small piece of land: this was where the project team established their field base to monitor the loggerhead sea turtles that forage in the area (Figure 1). There are no permanent residents at Patoku but some small cafes and restaurants that have been erected to provide refreshment for visitors that come to the coast for the day, especially in the summer months. The project rented rooms in the newly‐built Brilant Restaurant, which is also where our project team took their meals. The local area is characterised by five main habitats: wetland, an inner lagoon, an outer lagoon, a small barrier island, and then a shallow sea – Gjiri i Drinit. Five sediment‐laden rivers (Bunës, Drinit, Matit, Droja and Ishmit) enter Pellgu i Drinit bringing large amounts of terrestrial garbage, mostly plastics, into the coastal zone. Lumi i Ishmit brings the sewage effluent from Tirana to the sea, where it enters the bay just north of Kepi i Rodonit (aka Kepi i Skenderbej). There are no garbage disposal facilities at Patok, and so everything is thrown into the inner lagoon. Even if there was a designated local garbage‐collection point, infrastructural arrangements would be required to facilitate the collection, transportation and processing of the waste. The nearest village is Fushëkuqe, but it has few facilities. The nearest port – Shengjin – is about 50 km to the north by road, however, the roads are in terrible condition; some of the potholes are more than one metre deep. Alphabank had recently (May 2008) opened a branch in Lezhe, which meant that we no longer had to go to Tirana just for cash; but even the 30 km journey to Lezhe was a 3‐hour round‐trip – mainly because of the roads.
There are two groups of stavnike fishermen at Patoku: our group (Rakip Martini) fishes at Ishmit, and another group (Çal) that fishes at Matit; both groups let us monitor their turtle bycatch. There are also casual fishermen (e.g. rod & line, small traps, gill‐nets) and shellfish‐ collectors that work in the inner and outer lagoons.
Gjiri i Drinit Gjiri i Drinit is a shallow sea (maximum depth in survey area is 47 m) with a sand/mud substratum dominated by bivalves and crabs. Extensive fishing occurs throughout the bay, which is about 30 km north to south. Artisanal fishing is the main economic activity in the bay, especially in the remote southern areas where we were based. There are a few trawlers based at Shengjini, the only port in the bay; which also has an emerging tourism industry that is especially popular with Kosovans.
2.1.1. Sea areas The bay (Gjiri i Drinit) was divided into two main research areas: Shengjini and Patoku (Figure 1). SH: Shengjini ‐ Northernmost part of Pellgu i Drinit: • Western border is a line from the border with Montenegro, mouth of Lumi i Bunës, to the tip of Kepi i Rodonit (Skenderbeg Head) [Navigation light: FL (2) 10s 40m 8M]. • Eastern border is the Albanian coast (includes lagoons & wetlands). • Northern border is coastline from Bunës to Shengjin (includes Thrown‐sand beach, & a wetland area). • Southern border is a line of latitude (approx: N 41° 43′) connecting transect (western border) to a light on the eastern shore [FL6s 15m 7M]. • Maximum depth is about 42 metres; and two rivers enter this area: Bunës & Drinit. PA: Patoku. Southernmost part of Pellgu i Drinit; also known as Gjiri i Rodonit: • Western border is the same transect as SH (mouth of Lumi i Bunës to the tip of Kepi i Rodonit (Skenderbeg Head) [Navigation light: FL (2) 10s 40m 8M]. • Eastern border is the Albanian coast, with Patoku Lagoon being roughly central. • Northern border is a line of latitude (approx: N 41° 43′) connecting transect (western border) to a light on the eastern shore [FL6s 15m 7M]. • Southern border is Kepi i Rodonit. • Maximum depth is about 42 metres; and three rivers enter this area: Matit, Droja & Ishmit.
Figure 1: Gjiri i Drinit divided into two main sea areas: SH and PA
(A star marks the causeway across the inner lagoon to Patoku
field‐station. Hellenic Hydrographic Service chart was provided by MEDASSET and adapted by Dr. White)
PHOTO 1: Southern lagoon at Patoku where it shifts to marshland.
PHOTO 2: Fishing canal in northern lagoon at Patoku
PHOTO 3: Looking west along the causeway to Patoku field‐station; southern lagoon is to the left, northern to the right
PHOTO 4: Navigation canal cut through Patoku’s barrier island: it goes from the outer lagoon to Matit river (Lumi i Matit).
This chapter provides for an overview of the various fishing methods employed in Gjiri I Drinit and also provides for an in depth account of the Stavnikes: Trawlers (tratta): the first trawlers were observed fishing near to the mouth of Lumi i Matit on the 16th of July 2008; they are based at Shengjini and fish throughout Gjiri i Drinit. Longliners (from Shengjini): not yet observed, but believed to fish at ‘battla’ sea mounts. Only one turtle [W1438] was seen that had swallowed a hook & line; but we took it from a stavnike.
PHOTO 5: Trawler from Shengjini fishing very close to the beach at Patoku; water depth is about 5‐6 metres
PHOTO 6: Flat‐bottomed boats used at Patoku lagoon; water depth is only 10 cm in places
Coastal nets (mrezh): used in shallow waters (often 4‐6 m depth). We’ve spoken with Seferi, who fishes the Droja/Godull area near to Ishmit; he sees turtles on most days. Octopus pots: a ceramic pot or cinder‐block is placed on the seabed, marked with a floating plastic bottle on a line; traps are examined periodically to see if an octopus has hidden inside. Pinar: these are a type of barrier net, incorporating a trap similar to a keep‐net, usually erected in shallow water for winter fishing. Eels (Anguilla anguilla) were captured with pinar in the lagoons, but fishermen were also observed stabbing eels with tridents from small boats.
PHOTO 7: Octopus pot
PHOTO 8: Pinar being erected in inner lagoon at Patoku
Shellfish: an unusual method is used whereby people walk through the lagoon using their toes to feel for bivalves in the sand, which they then pick up and collect in a bag hung around their neck. Dynamite: although illegal we saw two men who were probably placing dynamite charges near to Tales Beach (05/07/2008); nearby we saw many dead fish floating at the surface. Dr. Michael White heard explosions coming from seawards on several mornings (usually 6‐10 explosions), and subsequently noted these occurrences (Annexe 2). We received a report (17/07/2008) that a dead tagged‐turtle was seen on the beach at Tales following explosions; however, we do not know the cause of death and the carcass disappeared, so we have no data. Bilanç: a large type of net suspended from fixed poles that is lowered onto the floor of a riverbed, and then winched up periodically to check for fish. Kalemero: a similar device to Bilanç but smaller and hand‐operated; also used in rivers or lagoons.
PHOTO 9: Kalemeno
PHOTO 10: Bilanç in mouth of Matit river; the net is lowered into the river & raised periodically
3.1. Stavnikes In the summer of 2008 our main research efforts were focused on monitoring stavnike fish‐traps. Stavnikes are a type of fish‐trap, originating in Russia, introduced into Albania around 30 years ago and forgotten about until 2000, when the Patoku fishermen started to use them again. Two sets of traps were monitored closely: Ishmit [N41°36.198′; E019°33.349′]; Matit [N41°38.512′; E019°34.126′]1. PHOTO 11: Fishermen returning from Matit stavnike. 3.1.1. Trap construction A rectangular enclosure is erected in shallow water (depth 5‐6 m) some distance offshore, consisting of long wooden posts (length 8‐10 m, diameter 10‐15 cm) forced vertically into the seabed, with nets secured to them in an arrangement that allows easy access into the traps for fish and other marine animals. The number of posts required depends upon trap‐size, but the design is always similar (Fig. 2). A stavnike is divided into sections (reception area, ante‐ chamber, and collection chamber), which is repeated to form a double unit. A long barrier‐ net extends from the fish‐traps to the beach (Ishmit stavnike was 1800 m offshore; Matit only 200 m); the traps are constructed to allow entry from either side of the barrier net. When fish or turtles encounter the barrier they have three choices: to turn left, right, or to go back the way they came; an area they may have just foraged. Turning beachwards leads them into shallower water. Animals entering the reception area are guided into successive chambers; escape from these is difficult although not impossible.
Ishmit stavnikes were out of action for nine days in June & four days in July; the nets were removed for cleaning (algal growth). One trap was damaged in heavy weather (15/7/2008) but rebuilt; and both stavnikes were destroyed on 24th July and not rebuilt in this year (2008).
Figure 2: Typical design of a stavnike fish‐trap (Photo: I. Haxhiu).
3.1.2. Fish catch Traps were emptied early each morning before the sun got too hot; harvesting was not possible in strong winds or heavy seas. Working from a small boat inside the enclosure, the fishermen slowly raised the bottom net by hand, reducing the size of the collection chamber, until the catch could be emptied into the boat. Any turtles were lifted manually into the boat, which could be difficult with larger animals. Space in the boats is limited and occasionally tagged turtles were released directly at the stavnikes (their tag‐numbers were communicated via telephone to Prof I. Haxhiu), in which case we might have no morphometric data; apart from those data collected at tagging. 3.1.3. Stavnike fishermen The research team lived and worked with the fishermen who fish at Ishmit, and so have a very good relationship with them. Another group of stavnike fishermen (Matit) were less accepting of the team initially and they wanted money in return for bringing the team turtles (Leke 500‐1000 [€4‐8] per turtle). Our difficulty with this is that the research team and the funding organisations, must obey the law, including CITES (1973), CMS (Bonn, 1979), and EU Habitats Directives (1992). The other side of the story is that the fishermen are poor people,
sometimes their catch is very small (2‐3 kg), they work hard ‐ for long hours, turtles in the nets can cause damage and prevent fish from being caught, and they have to buy benzene to get to their stavnikes or nets. Although these costs had not been anticipated in the budget design, the team were able to shuffle money from various budget categories to provide the fishermen with money for their time, their fuel; and not for buying the turtles from them. The project began working with the Matit fishermen on the 18th of June and by the end of June Dr. White had built a good relationship with them; answering their questions about marine life, including sea turtles and their biology. This proved to be very useful when they caught an ocean sunfish Mola mola for the first time; they had never seen or heard of anything like this before. It is clear therefore that the 2009 project must include in its budget a contribution towards fuel costs for the fishermen that assist the project. Our medium‐term goal should be to end such dependency through education, identifying alternative sources of income for the fishermen, substitution of cash with publicity materials (e.g. T‐shirts), and national legislative measures.
PHOTO 12 : Mola mola from Ishmit stavnike; weight 42 kg.
PHOTO 13 : An ocean sunfish Mola mola was captured in Matit stavnike; it weighed 300 kg.
Figure 3: Gjiri i Drinit: the red flags indicate stavnikes observed during 2008
(See Annexe 1) [Map creared by Dr. Michael White using Garmin MapSource]
3.1.4. Other stavnikes in Gjiri i Drinit
There were 18 sets of stavnikes throughout Gjiri i Drinit in 2008. A Global Positioning System was used to fix the location of key points (e.g. stavnike fish‐traps) within the study area (Garmin GPSMap 60C; software: Garmin MapSource; Atlantic Blue Chart; WGS 84: see Annexe 1 for GPS locations). • Vain stavnike: first visited this on the 5th of July and watched the fishermen collect the catch, which was very sparse that day (perhaps 10 fish & 20 large medusae). This trap is very near to the beach (50 m). The team spoke with the fishermen and discovered that there were often turtles in the traps; virtually all of these turtles were PHOTO 14: Vain stavnike: they are much less organised than the Ishmit fishermen untagged. • Tales stavnike: The team also visited this trap on the 5th of July: their catch was also sparse (4 kg ‘stavril’:‐ Horse mackerel Trachurus mediterraneus). They too regularly caught turtles in the traps (sometimes 3 or 4, but none for three days); once again almost all the turtles were untagged. • Stavnikes at Kepi i Rodonit: There are seven sets of traps along the northern side of the peninsula; the team spoke with several of these fishermen, but they very rarely have any turtles in their traps. • Kune‐Çesku: this is the only stavnike to fish all year round. This trap is very interesting in that the barrier‐net is removed during the summer months, perhaps because of its proximity to the Shengjini tourist beach, and only re‐erected during the winter months. When the barrier‐net was absent, sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax went into the traps, when the barrier‐net was present the sea bass did not enter the traps, and congregated to forage on small prey caught in the barrier‐net. Çesku has a good understanding of global biodiversity and environmental issues. Our only turtle [AL0002] this summer from the Shengjin sea area came from Çesku’s stavnike in September. • Kune‐Prella: this trap was situated on the seawards side of the coastline between Shengjini bay and Vain Nature Reserve; it is a difficult shore to reach from the landwards side. The Prella group have a small depot in the mouth of Lumi i Drinit, and after some considerable discussion agreed that they would keep turtles for us to measure and tag: however, they wanted money for this (Leke 1000 per animal – as mentioned earlier money would have been given towards their fuel and effort and not towards buying the turtle). The team agreed to this arrangement, as it was deemed better to have their
cooperation initially, and then temporarily suspend the practice if and when the project budget runs out. As it turned out they caught no more turtles during the field‐season. • •
Kune 2: there are two other stavnikes near by, but the fishermen could not be located. Thrown‐sand beach: there are three stavnikes very close to the shore in the northernmost part of the bay. Logistical limitations prevented the team from visiting these traps, but the fishermen were contacted by phone and asked to report any turtle bycatch to us. We had conducted underwater surveys at this site in 2005, and so were familiar with the area (White et al. 2006).
PHOTO 16: One of three stavnikes at Thrown‐sand beach
PHOTO 15: Vain stavnike is very close to the shore
4. MONITORING FISH CATCH Catches were monitored in three ways: i) direct observation at the traps, ii) direct observation of the catch when the boats returned to Patoku iii) discussions with different fishermen about their catch (i.e. anecdotal evidence). Whether researchers went to the stavnikes or not largely depended upon the fishermen’s planned activities. On some mornings they emptied the traps and returned directly to Patoku about 3‐5 hours later, on other days they continued to different types of net elsewhere before returning to Patoku in the evening.
Emptying the collection chamber of Ishmit stavnike
4.1. Catch composition A simple method was needed that allowed the fish species caught each day to be identified: without causing the fishermen any extra work. Fish types were photographed and briefly described each day. Initially, most species were not known to our researchers, although several could be allocated to genus (Rakaj, 1995; Miller and Loates, 1997). Over the first five weeks we identified 30 fish to species level, and found out their Albanian names (which could differ between fishermen); this process continued throughout the research period (Annexe 5). Quantifying each species by weight was considered initially, but discarded as being impractical, because fish were not necessarily sorted by species; and fish could be combined with different species for weighing on different days (sometimes fish were sorted into prime quality for export and poorer quality for local consumption. Restaurant‐owners often attended and purchased the best quality fish for their customers). The head of the Patoku fishermen, Rakip Martini, is also a fish wholesaler and buys fish from the artisanal fishermen (i.e. our base is a small fish market), and sometimes the project team could scrutinise these other catches. When fishermen from other areas were questioned it was sometimes not possible to see their catch. Particular attention was paid to the presence of prawns, medusae or crabs, as these may attract foraging turtles.
PHOTO 18: Burdullak Gobius bucchichii and a needle‐fish Belone belone.
PHOTO 19: Burdullak sorted by species
PHOTO 21: Mixed fish: corb, red mullet Mullus barbatus, and sole
PHOTO 20: Mixed fish: mackerel Scomber scombrus, red gurnard poss. Aspitrigla cuculus, corb Umbrina cirrosa and sole Solea spp.
PHOTO 22: Very small thresher shark Alopias vulpinus and octopus Octopus vulgaris.
PHOTO 23: Mixed fish: grey mullet Mugil cephalus, sea bass, and horse mackerel Trachurus mediterraneus
PHOTO 24: Red mullet Mullus barbatus
PHOTO 26: Belone belone
PHOTO 25: Sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax
PHOTO 27: Dolphinfish Coryphaena hippurus
PHOTO 30 : Belone belone PHOTO 28: “Gof” Greater amberjack Seriola dumerili
PHOTO 31 : Dolphinfish Coryphaena hippurus
PHOTO 29: Sorted catch
PHOTO 30: Torpedo ray Torpedo torpedo
PHOTO 32: Small eel Anguilla anguilla
PHOTO 34: A North American immigrant: Blue crab Callinectes sapidus at Patoku field‐station. Now naturalised in Eastern Mediterranean
PHOTO 31: Bonito Sarda sarda
PHOTO 33: Bivalves on beach near Patoku
PHOTO 35: An abundance of crabs: Carcinus mediterraneus.
5. SEA TURTLES 5.1. At‐sea encounters with turtles White (2007) provided a system of classification for anecdotal evidence: I) Direct sighting of turtle at sea; II) Reported anecdotal evidence, where the witness was questioned to provide more detailed information; III) Less‐reliable witnesses, or very brief encounters with megafauna. Only Class I & II sightings were used to compile data (Annex 3). Most of the data in Annex 3 were gathered during informal discussions with local artisanal fishermen in the Patoku area. These records included turtles that had been captured and released, as well as observations of turtles swimming nearby. Education of these artisanal fishermen was an important component of our work at Patoku (Godley et al. 1998b).
PHOTO 36: Recreational angler: they fish for many hours and have reported sightings of swimming turtles to us
PHOTO 37: Shellfish collectors have also seen turtles swimming between the lagoons at Patoku
5.2. Sea turtles: morphometric data Turtles, usually captured as bycatch, were transported to the team field‐base at Patoku, where these animals were measured, photographed, tagged and released. Species confirmation was based on standard keys (Dodd, 1988; Marquez, 1990; Eckert et al. 1999; Wyneken, 2001). The curved carapace length (CCL) and curved carapace width (CCW) were measured (Eckert et al. 1999) and turtles allocated into 10 cm size‐classes (length‐frequency distribution) based on their CCL e.g. 40 cm size‐class range: 40.0‐49.9 cm et seq. (White, 2007).
As an indicator of the stage of sexual development three measurements were recorded from the tail: i) Distance from posterior margin of plastron to midline of cloacal opening (Plas‐clo) ii) Total tail length (TTL) iii) Distance from tip of tail to posterior margin of the carapace (+/‐ cara)
PHOTO 38: This is a typical juvenile short‐tailed loggerhead; it is difficult to determine the sex of smaller animals externally. The tail tip does not extend beyond the carapace’s posterior margin.
PHOTO 39: The extended tail of an adult male loggerhead: the cloacal opening and TTL are some distance beyond the carapace’s posterior margin. 5.3. Carapace scutes
PHOTO 40: The developing tail of an adolescent male: the cloaca is just short of the carapacial margin, but the tail tip has already extended beyond the carapace
The carapace of a turtle consists of a series of interlocking keratinised bony plates (scutes); the pattern differs between species (Marquez, 1990; Eckert et al. 1999; Wyneken, 2001). Scutes were categorised as being nuchal, vertebral, costal or marginal, and these were counted starting anteriorly (e.g. V1‐V5).
PHOTO 41 : Loggerhead’s carapace: 5 vertebral scutes, then distally there are 5 pairs of costal scutes (left & right); and 12‐13 pairs of marginal scutes around the perimeter. The anterior central marginal is known as the nuchal scute
PHOTO 42 : Measuring the curved carapace width (CCW) of a very small juvenile Caretta caretta at Lampedusa. The vertebral scutes still have jagged ‘keels’. The global distribution of smaller turtles (in their oceanic phase) is almost unknown.
5.4. Flipper‐tagging All turtles were tagged prior to release and serial numbers recorded in Excel spreadsheets. A small number of turtles (n=10) captured during this research had been previously tagged: all at Patoku; the earliest was from 2003 (White et al. 2008). 5.4.1. Stockbrand’s tags vs. Rototags Incidental tagging has been conducted in Albania since December 2002 (Dalton’s Rototags: supplied by RAC/SPA, Tunis); these are now superseded by Stockbrand’s titanium tags with an Albanian address. Although expensive we felt that the purchase of Stockbrand’s tags was justified for three reasons: i) The risk of entanglement in fishing gear is reduced; ii) Tags remain legible for a longer period (some rototags were unreadable after five years); iii) Having an Albanian address on the tags increased the importance of turtles for the local fishermen: they thought that the RAC/SPA tags had been applied to turtles in Tunisia.
PHOTO 43: Dalton’s Rototag; these may increase PHOTO 44: Albania’s first Stockbrand’s tag: these the risk of entanglement in fishing gear. close into a ‘U‐shape’ and are less likely to catch on fishing gear Suggett & Houghton (1998) provided evidence that rototags can increase the risk of turtles becoming entangled in fishing gear, and so instead we chose to use Stockbrand’s titanium tags for the Patoku project (these tags lock into a closed u‐shape). The titanium tags had to be ordered and shipped from Australia (Stockbrands Co. PL, 53 Edward Street, Osborne Park, WA 6017); they arrived at Tirana in mid‐July 2008, but then there was a protracted period of negotiations as we tried to resolve an excessive demand for Customs duty and taxes. What appears to have caused the problem was that the tags were addressed to an individual (Prof. Haxhiu) rather than to an institution. The eventual outcome was that UNDP (especially Mr. Gace) and the Deputy Minister for the Environment became involved; and the tags were eventually released to us in mid‐August. The delay in receiving the new tags meant that we missed the peak‐capture period at Patoku, and the first Albanian tag was finally applied on 31st August 2008. Dr. Michael White’s intention was to remove rototags from previously‐ tagged turtles and replace these with titanium tags whenever we can (the database will be updated accordingly, see section 3.2.4). The serial‐numbers on several previously‐tagged turtles were obscured by extensive barnacle growth, in as little as 12 months. The rototag��[W1284] of an adult male tagged in 2003 was barely legible after just five years. Three captured loggerheads (3%; n=102 turtles) had tag‐ scars but no tags; the size, shape and location of holes in the fore‐flippers suggested that rototags had been used. All these turtles now have new identities [W1407, W1434 & W1440], which means their previous life‐histories remain incomplete, and they have been included twice in the population figures (Balazs, 1999; White et al. 2008). The intention was to double‐tag all turtles (i.e. insert tags into both fore‐flippers) in order to minimise this effect of tag‐loss, but at the last moment Prof Haxhiu insisted that we only use one tag per turtle; due to the severe financial constraints in Albania; i.e. we can tag 2000 instead of 1000 turtles.
Dr. White had taken the precaution of teaching a photo‐recognition technique to Albanian researchers, and so all turtles captured this summer have had their scutes and dorsal head‐ scales counted (White, 2007). Additional morphometrics data collection included CCL, CCW and three tail measurements; a useful technique for determining sexual development in adolescent males (White, 2007; White et al. 2008).
PHOTO 45: Tag scar that suggested a Rototag had been applied, and then lost.
PHOTO 46: This injury looked as though a Rototag had been inserted, but then somehow the entire tag was pulled through the flipper.
PHOTO 47 & 48: This Rototag [W1284] was almost illegible after just five years; a newly‐applied Rototag is shown below for comparison.
5.4.2. Tagging database A Microsoft Access tagging database has been developed by MEDASSET2 for the sea turtle tagging and morphometrics records from Patoku. A few minor problems were encountered during the development phase, mostly concerning the type of data permissible in each particular field. These problems were resolved in late‐June 2008 and the system is to be field‐ 2
Database designed from MEDASSET volunteer Aliki Dona‐ Software Engineer
tested. The database coordinator has yet to be confirmed, but record‐keeping may be continued by Prof Haxhiu and his team. One responsibility will be to upload the Albanian tag‐ series numbers onto the ACCSTR database (Archie Carr Centre for Sea Turtle Research, Florida). Sea turtle researchers throughout the world can report any encounters with previously‐tagged turtles to the original‐tagging project, by using “Tagfinder” (www.seaturtle.org): this software tool was developed so that data concerning identified turtles can be easily shared.
Figure 4 Data‐entry window of the new tagging database (MEDASSET).
5.4.3. Data collection
Datasheets and Excel spreadsheets were designed specifically for each task (morphometrics, fisheries monitoring, & physical environment). Data entry proved challenging at times due to frequent daily power that lasted up to 6 hours a time. Meticulous paper records were kept and a computer was used for back‐up and data analyses.
5.5. Photo‐recognition of sea turtles Photo‐identification is an established fieldwork technique, used to re‐identify certain individuals in a number of animal species (see White, 2007 and references therein). Successful re‐identification depends upon the subject having some unique distinguishing features or characteristics that persist over time. White (2007) showed that loggerhead turtles were individually identifiable by using photo‐recognition techniques that utilised the scale‐patterns on the dorsal surface of the head, and the layout of carapace scutes. When turtles had been captured then morphometric data could also be included. 5.5.1. Head‐scale patterns The dorsal surface of the head was divided into two regions and the scales in both areas were counted: 1) PF Number: the number of prefrontal scales present PHOTO 49 PF Number: Prefrontal scales (positioned between the beak and the eyes) are outlined in yellow; loggerheads usually have 2 pairs, but this turtle also has two smaller scales.
2) FP Number: the number of scales that touch the frontoparietal scale
PHOTO 50 FP Number: The frontoparietal scale is the large central scale on the top of the head outlined in yellow. The FP number is a count of the scales that touch this large central scale.
Scales in the two regions differ in shape, size, and number. Each of the index numbers (PF or FP) could be used to separate individual turtles into groups; however, greater individuation was achieved by using a combination of both indices (e.g. a turtle has PF = 6; FP = 10). Subdivision of head‐scales into rank‐classes: The reliability of photo‐recognition was further enhanced by subdividing the head‐scales into various sizes (small, medium and large), although this required a more subjective approach (Bennett and Keuper‐Bennett, 2004; White, 2007). The subdivision of PF and FP scales into rank‐classes was achieved on a case‐by‐case basis: counting scales directly (or examining photographs of individual turtles) and ranking them into an appropriate class (e.g. the FP number of a turtle comprises 6 large, 2 medium, and 2 small scales). White (2007) decided against classifying individual scales by their actual measurements, for instance deciding that scales of 5.0 mm width should be classified as small; a decision based on the perceived difficulty of measuring a turtle’s facial scales in the wild, especially when working underwater or with a large struggling animal, whereas an assessment of the relative size of different scales in a photograph is a simple task. We followed White’s (2007) method, for ease of data‐ comparability; although in the present study most of the turtles had been brought to shore and were more easily measurable. PHOTO 51 Very unusual head‐scale: three scales fused together during embryonic growth
5.5.2. Other factors that aid recognition Carapace damage or scute anomalies, and missing limbs can assist the re‐identification process.
PHOTO 52: Part of the carapace is missing on this loggerhead
PHOTO 54: Loggerhead has seven vertebrals and seven costal scutes on the right‐hand side (five costals on the left).
PHOTO 53: Caretta from Orikum hotel lost its right fore‐flipper in fishing gear
PHOTO 55: Small area of damage across V1 and CR1 scutes; lepas barnacles are growing inside. This will probably heal over a long period of time.
6. SEA TURTLES CAPTURED AS FISHERIES BYCATCH (2008) Most of the turtles in 2008 came from the stavnikes at Ishmit and Matit. The team took one from a net (mrezh) at Godull, one from Çesku’s stavnike at Kune, one from a hotel at Orikum, and caught one as it crossed some wetland between the outer and inner lagoons by Patoku field‐station in daylight. The majority were loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta, but there was also one green turtle Chelonia mydas.
PHOTO 56: Loggerhead in stavnike collection chamber at harvesting
PHOTO 57: Lifting a loggerhead from Ishmit stavnike into the boat
PHOTO 58: Moving a bigger turtle from stavnike
PHOTO 59: Two Caretta in the boat at Ishmit stavnike
PHOTO 60: Seferi and family fishing with mrezh near to Ishmit. When turtles are caught it is obviously a problem in such a small boat
PHOTO 61: Loggerhead being transported in a boat back to Patoku; it was already tagged.
6.1. Turtle Morphometric Data Ishmit and Matit: There were 103 turtles captured in the two Patoku stavnikes during June and July 2008 (Fig. 5): Ishmit stavnike fished for 39 days and yielded 54 turtles (53 Caretta caretta; 1 Chelonia mydas); Matit stavnike fished for 34 days and yielded 49 loggerheads. These stavnikes worked during June and July, and then were dismantled following severe storm damage (24th July). Most turtles (80%) were large short‐tailed loggerheads, and almost half (47%; n = 46 turtles) were in the 60 cm size‐class (Table 1). Only two had a curved carapace length (CCL) <50 cm; and two had CCL >80 cm (Mean CCL = 64.0 cm; SD = 7.3 cm; 95% confidence limit = 1.47; CCL range 45.5‐83.0 cm; n = 98 loggerheads; 4 loggerheads were data deficient due to carapace damage). There was one small juvenile green turtle Chelonia mydas (CCL = 39.0 cm).
Loggerhead CCL (cm) June & July 2008
Number of turtles
30 25 20 15 J une
5 0 40
Figure 5: Curved Carapace Length (CCL) size‐classes (cm) for 98 loggerheads caught in the stavnikes at Ishmit and Matit.
The 60 cm size‐class accounted for 47% of the turtles; two turtles were >80 cm, and two <50 cm.
Godull: Seferi caught a small loggerhead in his mrezh on 30th August (CCL = 48.0). Shengjin‐Kune: Çesku caught a small loggerhead in his stavnike on 10th September (CCL = 49.0 cm). Orikum: On the 20th September the project team released an adolescent male loggerhead from Orikum, near Vlore, where it had been kept in a small pool in a hotel’s garden for 15‐18 months; it had been captured originally in fishing gear and had lost its right fore‐limb, probably due to tissue necrosis. Table 1. CCL (cm) size‐classes for 101 loggerheads tagged at Patoku during 2008. The turtle in August was in a net at Godull. In September the smaller loggerhead was in Çesku’s stavnike at Kune, the larger one was released from a hotel at Orikum.
CCL June July August
40 2 1
50 17 10
60 26 20
70 17 4 1
Total 62 36 1
PHOTO 62 Adolescent male loggerhead that had been kept in a pool at an Orikum hotel as a tourist attraction. The animal was well‐fed and there was a continuous flow of seawater to its tank. It had lost a fore‐flipper through tissue necrosis, and was originally captured in fishing gear about 18 months earlier. We made a televised release on 20th September 2008, which was attended by local students and teachers.
6.2. Sex There was only one animal at Patoku in 2008 that may have been an adult female [W1425]; there was a recent injury to her neck, which may have been a ‘mating scar’; male turtles are known to bite the back of the female’s neck during mating. This year’s research period coincided with the egg‐laying period in the Mediterranean region: nesting is predominantly in the eastern basin and especially in the Ionian and Levantine Seas (Geldiay et al. 1982; Groombridge, 1990; Margaritoulis et al. 2003). There is a possibility that post‐nesting adult females (Margaritoulis, 1988c; Argano et al. 1992; Broderick et al. 2006) might be encountered later in the year at Patoku, or elsewhere in Albania; as Lazar et al. (2000; 2004) reported that some turtles tagged in Greece during nesting had been encountered later in Croatian waters. PHOTO 63 Possible ‘mating scar’ on the neck of a loggerhead [W1425]; this was the only turtle at Patoku in 2008 that may have been an adult female.
6.3. Male turtles The distribution and lifestyle of male turtles is not as well known as that of females. Patoku may be a male foraging and developmental habitat, as 20% of loggerheads tagged in June were males (adult = 4; adolescent = 9); there were five more adolescent males in July (White et al. 2008). This has added importance because of the potential feminising‐effect of climate‐ change on global turtle populations (Davenport, 1989). Carapace and tail measurements (cm) are given for 18 male loggerheads (4 adults; 14 adolescents) that were captured in stavnikes during June‐July 2008 (Table 2). Analyses of variance showed that the carapace measurements between adults and adolescents were significantly different (CCL: F1,16=6.98, P<0.05. CCW: F1,16=5.15, P<0.05). Analyses of variance showed that there were highly significant differences in the three tail measurements between adult and adolescent male loggerheads (Plas‐clo: F1,16=34.36, P<0.01. TTL: F1,16=27.15, P<0.01. +/‐ cara: F1,16=25.30, P<0.01). In two adolescents the tail had not yet extended beyond the carapace’s posterior margin (+/‐ cara = ‐1.0 and ‐2.5 cm). Table 2. Carapace and tail morphometric data (cm) for 18 male loggerhead turtles. Legend: CCL curved carapace length; CCW curved carapace width; Plas‐clo distance from posterior margin of plastron to midline of cloaca; TTL total tail length; +/‐ cara tip of tail to posterior margin of carapace. The final four turtles are adult, the others adolescent. *may have just reached maturity.
The tail measurements (Table 2) provided a good indication of the state of development of secondary sexual characteristics in male turtles (Limpus and Limpus, 2003; White, 2007; White et al. 2008). Morphological changes indicating the onset of male adolescence (proximal thickening and elongation of the tail) were observed in 14 loggerheads at Patoku. A problem has always been that it is difficult to identify the sex of small juvenile turtles externally; although gonad‐differentiation is completed during embryonic development (Yntema and Mrosovsky, 1980; Miller, 1997). There were highly significant differences between the tail measurements of adolescent and adult male loggerheads at Patoku (Table 2; White et al. 2008), and these were observed across a range of CCL size‐classes (mostly 60 and 70 cm); which adds support to the Australian‐findings of Limpus et al. (1994a) and Limpus and Limpus (2003) that adolescence may take several years to complete. In our Patoku study the smallest turtle showing definite tail development had a CCL = 59.5 cm. The largest adolescent (CCL = 74 cm) was far from attaining maturity (the tail tip was still 2.5 cm short of the carapace’s posterior margin); whereas two fully‐mature males had smaller carapace lengths (CCL = 71 cm). One loggerhead (Table 2), although small (CCL = 71.5 cm), may have just reached maturity. Turtles varied considerably in body width and height (ventral‐dorsal measurement), and so the least important morphometric measurement was the curved carapace width (CCW), although still statistically significant.
6.4. Juvenile developmental habitat Captures of juvenile turtles at Patoku suggest that this area may be used as a developmental habitat by loggerheads, and perhaps green sea turtles; this is an important finding because the pelagic life‐stages and marine population structures, especially in the Mediterranean, are not well‐known (Bolten and Balazs, 1982; Frazer and Schwartz, 1984; Bolten et al. 1992, 1993; Bolten, 2003a; Lazar et al. 2004).
6.5. Green sea turtle Chelonia mydas In June a juvenile green turtle Chelonia mydas (CCL 39 cm) was captured in Ishmit stavnike, and then recaptured three weeks later in Matit stavnike; regionally this species nests only in the northeastern Mediterranean, and more usually has a tropical distribution. PHOTO 64 Green turtle Chelonia mydas captured in Ishmit stavnike (June 2008). We tagged [W1169] and released it, then it was recaptured in Matit stavnike three weeks later.
Lazar et al. (2004) recently reviewed the museum specimens and records of green turtles known from the Adriatic Sea and found that most of these were misidentified loggerheads. There was a misunderstanding for many decades that Caretta caretta in the Adriatic Sea were small turtles and therefore the bigger individuals were often reported as Chelonia mydas. Probably only 10 were actually Chelonia mydas; three since 1985 were reported by Lazar et al. (2004): Italy: Po River Delta, 1985; and Margherita di Savoia, 1996. The first confirmed record of a green turtle in the eastern Adriatic Sea was a dead juvenile from Trpanj, Croatia, in 2001 that had drowned in a gill‐net (Lazar et al. 2004). The capture of a live green turtle in Albanian waters (this record), and the fact that it remained foraging at Patoku for at least three weeks, is therefore of great importance (White et al. 2008).
6.6. Serial recaptures An important finding was that entrapped turtles were not deterred from foraging locally, despite being manhandled out of the nets, and then being landed for measuring and tagging. The evidence for this is that 17 recently‐tagged turtles were recaptured in stavnikes on more than one occasion (one was taken five times, two on three occasions, and 14 were captured twice). These serial recaptures indicate that at least some turtles showed short‐term fidelity to Patoku’s foraging grounds (16 Caretta caretta and the Chelonia mydas). Some turtles (6 Cc & 1 Cm) were captured in both Ishmit and Matit stavnikes (4.5 km apart), suggesting a larger foraging area was being used, whereas the other recaptures were always in the same traps.
6.7. Remigrants Ten loggerheads had been tagged in previous years (all at Patok); the earliest in 2003; these indicate repeat migrations: either to Patoku or enroute elsewhere. There were no recaptures of turtles tagged by other projects (Bustard and Limpus, 1970; Margaritoulis, 1988c; Argano et al. 1992; Lazar et al. 2000; 2004).
6.8. Health status Turtles were generally in good health: 13 loggerheads had visible carapace damage, probably caused by boat propellers or fisheries impacts. The carapace of one turtle [W1441] was seriously fractured and the Matit fishermen wanted to kill it immediately. This loggerhead was a large animal, the injury had been caused several months previously and there were signs of new growth in the damaged area (tissue, blood vessels, keratin and scar tissue), the turtle was otherwise healthy, had extensive fat reserves, and was very vigorous; Dr. White released it. The rationale was that if we killed it then it was gone forever, whereas if we
released it then it may be able to reproduce, which is obviously an important factor for an endangered species. If it died subsequently at sea then other foragers would benefit from its carcass. It takes several decades for a sea turtle to reach maturity and this animal was a large specimen (the CCL could not be measured due to the damage, but the CCW was the third largest in our records). We recaptured this turtle two weeks later in a stavnike, which shows that the decision to release it had been the correct one, as it was still foraging. A loggerhead [W1438] in Matit stavnike had been caught previously on a longline (monofilament line emerged from its mouth, but the swallowed hook could not be seen and was probably in the stomach); as we have no surgical or X‐ray facilities, the only option was to cut the line as near to the hook as possible, and release the turtle.
PHOTO 65 Severely‐damaged carapace of a loggerhead [W1441]. The turtle was otherwise healthy and in good condition.
6.9. Epibiotic fauna Forty‐two loggerheads had barnacles (chelonibia or lepas spp.) attached to the carapace and/or head; six turtles were very heavily encrusted with epibiotic fauna.
PHOTO 66‐67: Barnacles attached to the carapace
PHOTO 68: Colony of lepas spp. on the plastron of a loggerhead.
PHOTO 69: Barnacles (Chelonibia spp.) on a loggerhead’s plastron.
These heavy epibiotic loadings suggest that the colonised turtles may have been leading a sedentary lifestyle, although attachment of epibionts also occurs randomly. Limpus et al. (1994a) observed that loggerheads in eastern Australian neritic habitats had clean carapaces when they recruited from oceanic waters; but then gained epibiota over 6‐8 weeks. The epibiotic burdens observed at Patoku indicate that the turtles may have been in benthic foraging habitats, perhaps locally, for some time.
PHOTO 70: A male loggerhead [W1107] voided this faecal sample as it was being measured. This is the only
hard evidence that confirms the benthic‐foraging hypothesis for Patoku so far.
PHOTO 71: The fragment of shell in the faecal sample shown above may have been Murex (Bolinus) brandaris (neogastropoda).
PHOTO 72: Benthic fauna commonly observed at Patoku: Ark shell
PHOTO 73: various bivalves
PHOTO 74: Squilla manta
6.10. Overwintering Loggerheads have been reported from the Adriatic Sea (Lazar, 1995; Lazar and Tvrtkovic, 1995; 1998; 2003; Lazar, Margaritoulis and Tvrtkovic, 2000; 2004; Ziza et al. 2003; Lazar et al. 2004). Whether turtles actually remain in Albanian waters during the winter months or not is more difficult to answer. One reason is because most turtles recorded in the Patoku study came from stavnikes, however, fishing activities in Gjiri i Drinit differ between summer and winter: only one stavnike (Çesku’s at Kune) is used all year round, and in autumn most of the Patoku fishermen moved from the bay into the more‐sheltered inner and outer lagoons to use pinar.
PHOTO 75: A loggerhead has extensive epifaunal (barnacles and mussels) and algal growth, but only on the posterior part of the carapace: was the front part buried?
The Adriatic Sea seawater temperatures reduce in the winter (perhaps 8‐9°C at Venice), and we know that ectothermic sea turtles suffer from cold‐stunning and possibly death (Witherington and Ehrhart, 1989; Bentivegna et al. 2002). There is also evidence that sea turtles hibernate in cold water conditions (Felger et al. 1976; Carr et al. 1980; Ogren and McVea; 1995). Of particular interest was the discovery from Cape Canaveral (Kennedy Space Centre), Florida, that in the winter some loggerheads were half‐buried in the mud walls of the ship‐canal; this was determined from the fact that part of the carapace was clean (i.e. in the mud), while the exposed parts were encrusted with barnacles (Carr et al. 1980). Photo 75 suggests that a similar event may have occurred: the turtle was either half‐buried, or had its head protected in some way (perhaps in a small grotto or beneath a ledge).
6.11. Conclusions Stavnikes appear to be a ‘turtle‐friendly’ method of fishing. Perhaps the most important factor is that turtles entering the traps can swim around and, crucially, surface to breathe normally. In‐trap foraging is also a possibility, as one loggerhead was observed eating a fish in the stavnike.
PHOTO 76 & 77: Turtle in the trap
Sea turtles described in this study were captured in stavnikes in Gjiri i Drinit (June‐July 2008). Most were larger juvenile (short‐tailed) loggerheads Caretta caretta, but adult males were also present; there was one juvenile green turtle Chelonia mydas. These bycatch records represent an unknown proportion of turtles using Gjiri i Drinit: only two traps were monitored regularly, and we do not know how many turtles of those present in the area actually enter traps; saturation tagging has yet to be achieved locally. Ten loggerheads had been tagged at Patok in previous years, suggesting that Albania forms part of their migratory route. Tag‐loss can lead to population overestimation. Seventeen turtles showed short‐term residency in the bay, which was demonstrated through their
subsequent recaptures in fish‐traps. These serial recaptures also suggest that being caught in a stavnike does not deter turtles from foraging locally. Male sea turtles (4 adults, 14 adolescents) were captured at Patoku, suggesting that they may use the area as a developmental and foraging habitat. This discovery has increased importance due to our presently limited understanding of the distribution and marine ecology of male sea turtles; and the threatened impact of global climate‐change, which may force embryonic sex‐ratios towards female‐ dominance. PHOTO 78: This loggerhead had eaten part of a fish in Ishmit stavnike. In the Mediterranean region the marine ecology of sea turtles, and their marine distribution patterns, both geographical and temporal, are largely unknown (Groombridge, 1990; Margaritoulis et al. 2003; White, 2007). Although the monitoring programme at Patoku is still in its early stages, we can confirm that substantial numbers of Caretta caretta are present in Gjiri i Drinit during the summer months (White et al. 2008); and in the future it may be possible to show that turtles frequent Albanian coastal and offshore waters during the winter months too. Therefore, it is recommended that Gjiri i Drinit is legally recognised as a nationally and regionally important foraging and developmental habitat for sea turtles; and that these endangered migratory animals are fully protected under Albanian national law (Laurent, 1988b; Action Plan, 1999).
6.12. Anecdotal evidence Important data: an ex‐soldier, based on Inshulla i Sazanit in the mid‐1970’s saw loggerheads nesting there on the eastern beach on three occasions; he also saw live hatchlings. They used to eat “Breshke” (the meat was delicious, especially the liver); on one occasion they had a loggerhead that weighed 140 kg (MGW, anonymous interview 20/06/2008). Kune coastal zone: a local fisherman saw three live hatchlings on these remote beaches in 2006 [GPS: N41° 44.969; E019° 34.080] (MGW, anonymous interview 20/09/2008). These isolated sandy beaches, are difficult to access from land and there is no development, despite being near to Shengjini beach; where there is an emerging d tourist industry.
A stavnike fisherman at Vain told our researchers that “Adriatic White Prawns” reproduce close inshore at Vain during April/May (he actually said ‘the entire Adriatic prawn population’… however, we have no data). Tun Shells Tonna galea (Gastropoda) were observed egg‐laying underwater near Kepi i Rodonit (13th September, 2008).
7. PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT The wind‐direction and wind‐speed, cloud cover (in Octas), air temperature (°C) and SST (sea surface temperature °C) were measured each day at Patoku field‐station. Occasionally data were missed if we were surveying elsewhere. Wind direction was determined with a Silva compass. Wind‐speed and air temperature were measured with a ‘Kestrel 2000 Pocket Weather Meter’ (Nielsen‐Kellerman; www.nkhome.com). SST was recorded with a ‘Tronic In‐Out digital thermometer’ (no supplier details are known). Table 3: Wind direction was recorded at Patoku from June‐September 2008. The predominant winds blew from the northwest (Maestrali) and west (Ponente). A mountain range to the east probably prevented winds from that direction. [Note: There were no data on 1 or 2 days each month when we surveyed elsewhere].
Wind North Northeast East Southeast South Southwest West Northwest
June 1 4 0 2 2 1 5 14
July 1 1 0 0 3 3 5 16
August 1 2 0 0 0 1 9 17
September 0 3 0 1 0 4 7 9
Days 3 10 0 3 5 9 26 56
Winds were strongest around midday and weakened in the late‐afternoon, generally ceasing altogether at sunset. The dominant Maestrali (northwesterly wind; Table 3) may explain why the Godull area is so heavily polluted with terrestrial, mostly plastic, waste. Lumi i Ishmit transports large quantities of sewage & garbage from Tirana into Gjiri i Rodonit, where it enters the bay immediately north of Kepi i Rodonit (Fig. 6). The prevailing wind may then force the plastic waste onto the nearest beaches (Godull/Droja and the north shore of Kepi i Rodonit), rather than allowing its dispersal into the open sea. The more northerly beaches, such as at Tales and Vain, are much less polluted; however, their nearest rivers (Lumi i Matit and Lumi i Drinit) appear to be cleaner and carry much less waste into the bay.
Figure 6. Pellgu i Drinit. Red arrow shows where Lumi i Ishmit enters Drinit bay at Godull; blue arrow indicates predominant wind‐direction (Maestrali). The beaches near to Ishmit are heavily‐ polluted with, mostly, plastic waste.
The problems and impacts of anthropogenic waste, especially of plastics, in the marine environment have been widely reported (e.g. Clark, 1997; Goldberg, 1997); and several authors have reported on the interactions between turtles and pollutants (e.g. Fritts, 1982; Balazs, 1985; Gramentz, 1988; Schulman and Lutz, 1995; Godley et al. 1998, 1999; Tomas et al. 2002; Witherington and Hirama, 2006). Of particular concern were the findings of Stefatos et al. (1999) when they discovered that the incidence of plastics on the seafloor was far greater than the amount of surface‐borne debris encountered. Recent experimental research by Thompson et al. (2004) showed that microscopic fragments of plastic were ingested by benthic fauna: amphipods (detritivores), lugworms (deposit feeders), and barnacles (filter feeders) within a few days; this would imply that plastics have now entered the global food chain, although the long‐term ecological effects are not yet known.
PHOTO 79: Left view is Godull beach looking north towards Patoku; right view shows some of the plastic adjacent to the mouth of Lumi i Ishmit.
PHOTO 80 Tales beach (right) and Vain (left) have much less plastic waste on them
Environmental parameters: SST (Table 4) and air temperature (Table 5) were recorded at Patoku every day unless we were surveying elsewhere; final records were taken on 25th September 2008. Prof Haxhiu had given the fishermen a thermometer to measure the SST at Ishmit stavnike; however, this was a very low priority for them and was usually forgotten, also they could not go to the traps in poor weather conditions. Throughout the research period in 2008 (June‐September) the Mean SST was >24°C, so water temperature was not a limiting factor for the presence of turtles in the foraging areas. Table 4: Sea surface temperature (SST) was measured daily at Patoku field‐ station. The Mean SST was >24°C throughout the research period (June‐ September 2008).
SST June July August September
Mean 27.0 28.4 28.6 24.1
SD 2.37 1.95 1.70 3.99
Min 22.5 25.0 24.5 17.0
Max 32.0 32.0 32.0 29.0
Days 29 29 30 24
Table 5: Air temperature (°C) was measured daily at Patoku field‐station. The Mean air temperature was >23°C throughout the research period (June‐ September 2008).
Air Temp June July August September
Mean 26.2 26.9 27.0 23.0
SD 3.61 2.52 1.87 3.60
Min 20.4 20.9 24.2 18.4
Max 32.0 31.1 31.9 29.0
Days 29 29 30 24
In order to better understand when turtles are present in Gjiri i Drinit, which may be throughout the year, we should measure the SST at other times of the year. This could be achieved by Prof. Haxhiu & Enerit Saçdanaku being paid for a few days each month during the winter, so that they could go to Patoku or Godull and monitor the monthly trend of seawater temperature. Such visits would reinforce our connections with these fishing communities, and allow incidental captures or encounters with turtles to be recorded.
8. CONSERVATION AND OUTREACH ACTIVITIES (2008 – 2010) Conservation and educational planning during the project were led by Prue Robinson (MEDASSET).
8.1. Capacity‐building and awareness‐raising activities Students from Tirana University participated in fieldwork at Patoku as research assistants. Initially two biology students (Enerit Saçdanaku and Lazion Petritaj) were chosen as researchers, but the project had insufficient funds to sustain this arrangement (paying their field‐allowance and food); consequently Enerit Saçdanaku worked with Dr. White for over three months.
PHOTO 82 : Another group of biology students from Tirana University Biology students from the University of Tirana visited our field‐station at Patoku for a practical demonstration of sea turtle handling, morphometrics, photo‐recognition techniques, and lectures on biology, ecology and the presence of Caretta caretta at Gjiri i Drinit. Three groups of students attended (50 on the 3rd of June, 50 on the 4th June, and another 50 on the 21st of June, 2008). There was a useful teaching opportunity on the second day, when a juvenile green turtle Chelonia mydas was released and so aspects of its
PHOTO 81 : Biology students from Tirana University on a field‐trip to Patoku
morphology and behaviour could be compared with those of loggerhead turtles. Media coverage was available on all three days. A television documentary was made by KOHA television (27/06/2008) of us tagging turtles with Matit fishermen. This hour‐long report on our project, produced as part of Koha’s ‘Koordinatat’ series, included interviews with Dr. White, Prof. Haxhiu, Enerit Saçdanaku, and Gjerj Çal (a Matit fisherman); it was screened on Sunday 29th of June and repeated on 6th July.
PHOTO 83 : KOHA TV filming our work with the Matit fishermen at Patoku
Koha/Klan TV filmed the Qarku of Lezhe presenting an award to Dr. Michael White at Patoku for his services to Albania; this was subsequently shown on most major television networks in late‐September 2008. SHQIP Newspaper published a two‐page article (Viti III – Nr. 163 (813). E diel, 15 qershor 2008) about our work at Patoku and the visits by biology students from Tirana University; it also highlighted the problem of terrestrial garbage at Godull, much of which is transported there from Tirana via Lumi i Ishmit. PHOTO 84 Top Channel filming our work at Patoku field‐station
PHOTO 85: Dr. White and Prof. Haxhiu with the teachers from Orikum Middle School.
PHOTO 86 : Prof. Haxhiu explaining about our work at Orikum.
Top Channel News produced a 15‐minute item about Patoku Lagoon, which included footage of our work with sea turtles and fishermen, and an interview with Prof. Haxhiu (Screened on 19th July). They also filmed the release of the captive turtle from a hotel at Orikum, south of Vlore. Pupils and teachers of the local Middle School attended. The 3‐minute piece was shown twice (21st and 22nd September 2008). Dissemination of the Project’s results to the scientific community Dr. White made the opening presentation at the Third International Biology Conference at Tirana (26‐27th September 2008; Tirana International Hotel). The paper (White et al. 2008) will be published in the Journal of Natural Sciences/Buletini i Shkencave Natyrore (Annexe 7). Dr. White also presented the Patoku research in the Management and Conservation section (Abstract 2889) of the 3rd Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles (Hammamet, Tunisia) in October, 2008. An abstract (Abstract 2936) has been accepted for the 29th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation (Brisbane 17th‐19th February 2009) and will be presented by Dr Michael White. Feedback from peers Scientists in the global sea turtle community have placed considerable importance on our findings from Patoku (Gjiri i Drinit) this summer. After the presentation at Tunisia, Dr. White was asked by scientists from Italy and Croatia about how we could develop collaborative research in the Adriatic region; migratory sea turtle species may use the entire Mediterranean, as well as more remote regions, as their habitat. Dr. White was also commended by the IUCN regional vice‐chair for the
Mediterranean for presenting this important work at the conference. There was great interest from Libyan, Tunisian, Maltese, Turkish, Cypriot, Greek, Spanish, and other Italian scientists about our research at Patoku, and particularly how genetic‐profiling might provide the link between the foraging turtle population in the Adriatic and nesting populations in the Eastern Mediterranean basin. Mrs Lily Venizelos, President of MEDASSET, was also approached by numerous other scientists and sea turtle experts about developing collaborative studies with Albania. Turtle research in some Mediterranean countries has been underway for two or three decades (Italy, Cyprus and Greece in particular; Demetropoulos and Hadjichristophorou, 1995), and in Croatia since about 1994. In contrast when we look at Albania, the first tags were applied to turtles at Godull in late‐2002. Watching presentations by our scientific colleagues at Hammamet shows that in terms of awareness there is a ‘black hole’ between Greece and Croatia: turtles leave the Ionian and arrive near Slovenia; whereas it is obvious that they have to traverse either Italian or Albanian waters enroute to the northern Adriatic (Lazar, 1995; Lazar and Tvrtkovic, 1995; 1998; 2003; Lazar, Margaritoulis and Tvrtkovic, 2000; 2004; Lazar et al. 2004; Ziza et al. 2003). PhD candidate Merita Rumano works for the Ministry of Environment, and her PhD thesis now has to be relevant to her work, rather than just on sea turtles. The proposal is to make a study of the Ishmit River (which brings the sewage effluent and garbage from Tirana into Gjiri i Drinit) and its impacts upon the sea turtle foraging grounds in our study; we can regard this as complementary to our research.
8.2. Research assistants at Patok for 2009 For the 2009 Project, training more students would further improve capacity‐building outcomes. To do this, the Project would have to pay each student a field‐allowance (Leke 1000 per day, about €8) and provide food and accommodation at Patoku (Food requires 1700 Leke per person/per day). It is important to include students from the other Albanian Universities, which could lead to the establishment of research projects in other coastal areas, such as Himare and Sarande in southern Albania. These could be staffed by HAS members and all abiding by the same research protocols.
PHOTO 87: Enerit and Lazion, our two biology student research assistants counting scutes on a loggerhead.
PHOTO 88: Geology students from Tirana University on a field trip to Patoku. They came with us to measure turtles from Matit stavnike.
PHOTO 89: Enerit applying a rototag to a loggerhead at Patoku
8.3. The importance of Gjiri i Drinit Our findings show that Gjiri i Drinit is an important summer foraging ground for sea turtles, and may subsequently prove to be used as an overwintering area too; the benthos is rich in small invertebrates, bivalves and crustacea. The bay is also a developmental habitat for Caretta caretta, and occasionally Chelonia mydas; as well as providing a migratory corridor for marine turtles. Of particular importance is the presence of adult and adolescent male loggerheads, as their marine ecology is poorly understood. Dolphins (probably Tursiops truncatus) are resident in the bay, particularly in the northern areas: they have been reported to enter Lumi i Drinit during high water. Patoku Lagoon was observed to be an important reproductive habitat for different fish species (fry frequented waters as shallow as 1 cm). Migratory eels Anguilla anguilla are present in the lagoons, particularly during the spring and autumn. Gjiri i Drinit provides important artisanal fishing grounds, which are utilised by local communities, in an economically impoverished area of Albania. Therefore it is essential that any legislation enacted to protect this sensitive environment should include permission for fishing activities to take place, even if some form of zoning were to established. A determined effort should be made to eradicate dynamite‐fishing: the Lezhe authorities are currently investigating this matter (Bardh Rica, pers. com.). Patoku, Kune, and Vain Lagoons are important habitats for birds; the Patoku lagoons support a rich variety of birds, some apparently resident (e.g. Kingfisher Alcedo atthis; Little Egret Egretta garzetta), and others migratory (Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber; Great White Egret Egretta alba; Cormorant Phalocrocorax carbo). Swallows Hirundo rustica were observed to build nests using the mud from the foreshore by our field‐station; PHOTO 90: Little Egret Egretta garzetta they reproduced successfully. Note: bird species were identified using Jonsson (1996). The Golden Jackal Canis aureus was often heard in the area, but never encountered. It is possible that otters Lutra lutra also use the Patoku area for foraging, as mounted specimens (i.e. ‘stuffed’) were seen in a nearby restaurant.
8.4. The importance of working with the local fishing communities In the summer of 2008 most of our turtles came from fisheries (>99%), hence it is imperative that we maintain an excellent relationship with the various fishermen.
PHOTO 91: Ishmit fishermen unloading catch at our Patoku base.
PHOTO 92: Loggerheads caught in Matit stavnike in June 2008.
The fishing communities are also a vital audience for environmental education. One example was when fishing activities changed in August: barrier‐nets (pinar) were erected in the lagoons at Patoku, mostly to catch eels – the fishermen at Godull criticised these pinar, as they believe that these small‐mesh nets kill many of the newly‐spawned fish, or prevent them from leaving the lagoons and reaching the sea (Bearzi et al. 2006). This is viewed locally as a reason for falling fish catches; despite declining fish stocks being a global problem. We know that dynamite is used in the Godull area (Annexe 2), but it is a major challenge to persuade this isolated community that dynamite has a severe impact on their shallow ecosystem.
PHOTO 93 & 94: Local fishermen helping us to remove barnacles from turtles prior to release.
When the mrezh‐fishermen at Godull find crabs in their net, i.e. every day, they smash the crustaceans to pieces, as it takes too long to remove them individually by hand; Prof Haxhiu has been telling them for years that this is a problem.
An important educational goal for the next research period is to teach local fishermen to identify green turtles Chelonia mydas (Lazar et al. 2004) and leatherbacks Dermochelys coriacea (Casale et al. 2003), so that we can develop a better understanding of the marine distribution and habitat use of turtles in the Adriatic Sea. It seems possible that pelagic turtles utilise the north‐bound currents that flow along the eastern border of the Adriatic (Orlic et al. 1992).
PHOTO 96: A Matit fisherman releases an adult male loggerhead for Patoku.
PHOTO 97: Ilir at Godull with us; he could be the caretaker of a holding‐tank for turtles
PHOTO 95: Locals from Patoku helping with a stranded loggerhead; it kept getting stuck in the shallow area on a very hot day
PHOTO 98: Godull/ Droja fishing community
8.5. Other monitoring activities Stavnikes at Ishmit and Matit were dismantled at the end of July after suffering severe storm‐ damage; the fishermen decided that it wasn’t worth the cost of rebuilding the fish‐traps this year. The focus of our research shifted and we took the opportunity to survey other coastal areas, interviewing fishermen elsewhere. Field‐trips were made to Divjake and Karavastres Lagoon; where turtles have also been captured in fishing gear. We discovered that the restaurant on Patoku’s barrier island has a loggerhead in a small pool there; we are still negotiating for its release.
A Shengjini trawler captain was interviewed at Kune Lagoon: apparently many of the trawlers have been replaced in the past two years. When we conducted our rapid coastal survey assessment in 2005 (White et al. 2006), most of the Shengjini boats used for fishing appeared to be unseaworthy.
PHOTO 99 : Restaurant on Patoku’s barrier island; Kepi i Rodonit is in the background
PHOTO 100 : Alexander, a trawler captain, with Prof. Haxhiu and Enerit at Kune
8.6. Collaboration with other research organisations Ocean sunfish Mola mola Dr. White sent the following information to Dr Tierney Thys who subsequently posted it, and photographs, onto his website at: www.oceansunfish.org/sightings “I thought you may be interested to hear about two captures of ocean sunfish that I observed in the Adriatic Sea recently. Both animals were caught in fish‐traps and were dead when I saw them a couple of hours after capture. I’m studying sea turtles at Patoku Lagoon in northern Albania and work closely with several groups of local fishermen. What surprised me was that they were in such shallow water, especially the larger fish; the sea water
temperature is around 26°C at present. The habitat is sandy substratum rich in bivalves and crabs. The GPS [WGS84] coordinates have been included for you too. The first sunfish was caught on Monday 30th June 2008: weight 42 kg; straight‐line distance fin‐tip to fin‐tip was 1.28 m; overall straight‐line length 1.02 m. Ishmit trap location: [N41° 36.198; E019° 33.349] water depth 6.0 metres. (This group of fishermen had caught a Mola mola in 2002, weight 80 kg). The second was caught on Sunday 6th July 2008: weight 300 kg; straight‐line distance fin‐tip to fin‐tip was 2.03 m; overall straight‐line length 1.62 m. Matit trap location: [N41° 38.512; E019° 34.126] water depth 5.5 metres. (This was the first sunfish that these fishermen had ever seen or heard of). Albanian (Shqip) name is: “peshk hënë” moon fish, or “peshk lepur” rabbit fish I hope that these sightings help you in your work; my understanding is that the status of Mola mola is yet to be evaluated.”
9. PROJECT MANAGEMENT The Project Management was carried out by MEDASSET. All fund raising was also carried out by MEDASSET. This section outlines the funding difficulties that limited the initial scope of the project (reducing the number of activities that were initially planned before receiving confirmation of the final budgets approved by RAC/SPA and GEF/SGP), as well as the solutions that were employed so that the research could be executed successfully. In addition, an account is provided with regard to the contribution of the partners involved The total Project Budget was 38.593,74 EUR
9.1. Funding Finance had been promised by different donors, but funds were very slow to materialise. We decided to start the fieldwork almost unfunded, as the natural world does not wait for bureaucracy to resolve its difficulties (Anecdotal evidence suggested that >100 loggerheads had been captured between April and mid‐June in the Matit stavnike alone). MEDASSET provided the initial funding, enabling Dr. White to travel to Albania and begin research; they also paid for the project car. RAC/SPA supported the opening phase of study; then UNDP (GEF/SGP) continued with a substantial contribution towards the ongoing costs. The initial shortage of cash meant that everyone had to take us on trust that we would pay the accommodation rent and food bills, whenever funds were credited to our accounts. The issue of which budget‐component the room rental & food costs should be drawn from was
only resolved on the 15th July (Dr. White & Prof. Haxhiu had used their own money to cover the costs for June: €700 rent & Leke 103940 food [€866]). The funding process per donor is described below in further detail. 9.1.1. Regional Activity Centre for Specially protected Areas (RAC/SPA) Contribution 3000 EUROS RAC/SPA granted 3.000 Euros towards the project activities. 9.1.2. Global Environment Facility’s Small Grant Programme (GEF/SGP) Contribution: 25.871 US Dollars GEF/SGP contributed 25.871 US Dollars towards the project. The fundraising was geared from MEDASSET and the budget was transferred to ECAT because only an Albanian NGO was eligible to receive funding from GEF/SGP. The funding was granted to ECAT in 4 stages: 30% on an MOU being signed between GEF/SGP and ECAT; 30% when 1st progress report received; 30% on 2nd progress report; and the final 10% when the annual report and ECAT’s certificate of expenditure have been delivered to GEF/SGP. Due to lengthy bureaucratic processes the first GEF/SGP instalment was not paid to ECAT until the 15th/16th July 2008. A progress meeting (Dr. White ‐ MEDASSET, Prof. Haxhiui‐ HAS, Mr. Gace ‐GEF/SGP, and Mrs. Marieta Mima ‐ ECAT) was held on the 15th July 2008 at Patoku to discuss our financial situation; fieldwork had been underway for almost seven weeks. It was clear that our initial budget had been under‐estimated, notably as we discovered we had to pay fishermen for captured turtles; this had not been included in our budget, which had been based on our previous research programmes in other countries. The Patoku field‐staff calculated a new budget to reflect the actual situation in the field; and Dr. White wrote a covering letter to MEDASSET justifying all the points. This revised budget (Annexe 8) should form the basis of future fund‐raising endeavours for the project’s fieldwork in Albania. A voucher system was designed and instigated for casual payments (rent, student’s allowance etc.) to satisfy ECAT’s accounting needs.
9.1.3. Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles – MEDASSET GR and UK Contribution: 17.956,63 EUROS MEDASSET mitigated for the delay in the transfer of funds from other donors by initiating the project with MEDASSET funds. MEDASSET worked hard to try and secure additional funds to cover the budget shortfall. In July the Project manager suggested that the project might need to finish early through lack of funds, however, we pushed beyond this point and continued our research until the end of September; thus achieving our project aims. The funding shortfall meant that our capacity‐building endeavours were constrained, in particular that we could only afford to have one student‐researcher working on the project instead of two or three (food costs and daily field allowance). There were six students from Tirana University that wanted to come to Patoku to conduct research projects, but there was no money available to support them. Some project activities that were not considered of highest priority were not realised (eg: Turtle tanks). MEDASSET‐UK made a most welcome financial contribution to our project in September, which allowed us to complete the 2008 field‐season, settle all bills, and pay Dr. White’s flight home to Italy.
10. CONCLUSIONS The research project at Patoku in 2008 should be regarded as highly successful, and our sincere thanks go to all of the project partners and funding organisations for their support. All the Workplan (WP) research aims and objectives were achieved at Patoku, as were MEDASSET’s conservation objectives. Project outreach activities were considerable: we facilitated three field‐trips for biology students from Tirana University, our project was included in seven television programmes (June‐September 2008), a SHQIP newspaper article, and Dr. White has already presented the Patoku research to the international sea turtle community; and we have a scientific paper ‘in press’. We have created an opportunity for collaborative research activities and a conservation programme to be established in the Adriatic region, working with Croatian and Italian colleagues. We seek to build an Education Centre at Patoku Lagoon, which can train future generations of Albanian marine researchers. The project went far beyond its original concept and it seems that we have initiated what may become a realistic and sustainable venture in Albania; which is capable of making an important contribution to the Mediterranean’s regional programme for the conservation of marine turtles.
11. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE YEARS AT PATOKU Godull: There is a small fishing community in this area near Droja and Ishmit rivers (south of Patoku); the people were most welcoming and we built up a good relationship with several of the fishermen and their families. The area is very poor and has no infrastructure (no electricity or water supplies); the houses are rough constructions of wood, plastic and tarpaulins. There are many sea turtles using this shallow nearshore habitat; and it was the place where Prof. Idriz Haxhiu began his work with local fishermen in 2002. The fishermen catch turtles as bycatch in their nets (mrezh); and dynamite‐fishing regularly occurs here too. Therefore we should try and monitor the bycatch at Godull, but it poses some challenges: i) The fishermen would be willing to bring turtles to Patoku, but we would have to pay for benzene. The problem with this is that we might end up with many fishermen individually transporting turtles to us and so it may be difficult to calculate a realistic budget outlay on this basis. ii) We could construct a tank at Godull where turtles could be kept for a short period, and researchers go over from Patoku every 2‐3 days to measure, photograph, tag, and release the animals. There are beach‐users here too, although the beach is covered in plastic garbage and Tirana’s sewage enters Gjiri i Drinit via the Ishmit; so it provides an educational opportunity. iii) If we had a tank at Godull it would be necessary to pay someone a small salary to act as the caretaker; and to distribute funds, or T‐shirts, to the local fishermen in return for bringing us turtles. We have identified a possible custodian (Ilir), who has assisted us voluntarily on several occasions in 2008, and he has also helped Prof. Haxhiu to tag turtles over the last five years. iv) Another option would be to have a student researcher based there. However, because facilities are almost nonexistent at Godull we would probably have to change students there every three days (they can use Patoku as their base). Excellent food is available at Godull; one of the fishermen (Seferi) has a small restaurant. We may be able to find a solution using some combination of these ideas, but our research would be improved by including the bycatch from Godull. During a visit there in August one fishermen had caught and released six loggerheads in his net that morning (at‐sea encounter X012; Annexe 3).
12. PHASE II ‐ THE 2009 PROJECT
The main aim of the 2009 project is to highlight the importance of the sea turtle feeding grounds in the region; improve sea turtle and biodiversity conservation; and to better manage the area’s marine natural resources (e.g. fisheries), as well as improving our limited knowledge of the Mediterranean. Specific objectives: •
• • • • •
To continue the development and implementation of the sea turtle research programme in the broader Patok area (population estimates, tagging, measuring carapace, recording age and physical conditions, DNA profiling, Satellite tracking). Fish traps (stavnike) will be monitored on a daily basis (June ‐ September). Record the distribution of sea turtles, geographically and temporally (including overwintering data) and relate these to physical parameters. To continue the development and implementation of the public awareness programme in the broader Patok area. Develop demonstration activities at this important site through awareness‐raising, training and networking of stakeholder groups. To improve the ability of government bodies, university students and NGOs to ensure environmental sustainability and capacity building. Improve the capacity of Albanian scientists to monitor the marine turtle population in local waters. To reduce fisheries bycatch, destructive fishing practices and over‐fishing. Establish an Education Center at Patok. Elaborate a collaborative research proposal for sea turtles in the Adriatic region
WORK PACKAGES have been created in order to meet the project objectives: WORK PACKAGE 1 – Project Management WORK PACKAGE 2 ‐ Field Work WORK PACKAGE 3 – Satellite Tracking (new component) WORK PACKAGE 4 – DNA Profiling (new component) WORK PACKAGE 5 – Capacity Building WORK PACKAGE 6 – Education Centre (Independent project component)3 WORK PACKAGE 7 – Education and Awareness WORK PACKAGE 8 – Dissemination of Results 3
This project component is independent to the rest of the project, so that any finances required by the education centre do not impact upon our ability to realise the other work packages.
13. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The Patoku project would like to thank Lily Venizelos (President of MEDASSET), Arian Gace (GEF/SGP), Atef Ouerghi (RAC/SPA), and Merita Rumano, Fundime Osmani and Blerina Vrenozi. Also our thanks go to MEDASSET, MEDASSET (UK), UNDP (GEF/SGP) and (RAC/SPA) for providing funding for this work; and to Marieta Mima (ECAT) for administering the GEF/SGP budget on behalf of UNDP. Special thanks go to: The Prime Minister Sali Berisha and the Ministry of Environment Patoku: Rakip & Ladja and the staff at ‘Brilant’ (Alma, Armir; Sokal the chef); the Patoku and Matit fishermen. Godull: Seferi and family, Ilir Shengjini: Çesku and Alexander. Alphabank: Nevi Camovic and colleagues Lezhe: Qarku Bardh Rica and the councillors of Lezhe region Tirana: Staff and students of Tirana University & Museum of Natural Sciences; HAS members; Top Channel News, KOHA & KLAN TV, and Shqip newspaper. Lastly: to all of those people that we met, spoke with, or shared experiences with …
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75. Thompson, R. C., Y. Olsen, R. P. Mitchell, A. Davis, S. J. Rowland, A. W. G. John, D. McGonigle and A. E. Russell. (2004). Lost at sea: Where is all the plastic? Science 304: 838. 76. Tomas, J., R. Guitart, R. Mateo and J. A. Raga. (2002). Marine debris ingestion in loggerhead sea turtles, Caretta caretta, from the Western Mediterranean. Marine Pollution Bulletin 44: 211‐216. 77. The Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington D. C. 615pp. 78. White, M. G. (2007). Marine ecology of loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta (Linnaeus, 1758) in the Ionian Sea: Observations from Kefalonia and Lampedusa. Ph.D. Thesis, University College Cork, Ireland. 300pp. 79. White, M., I. Haxhiu, V. Kouroutos, A. Gace, A. Vaso, S. Beqiraj and A. Plytas. (2006). Rapid assessment survey of important marine turtle and monk seal habitats in the coastal area of Albania, October‐November 2005. (Available from www.MEDASSET.org). 80. White, M., I. Haxhiu, E. Saçdanaku, L. Petritaj, M. Rumano, F. Osmani, B. Vrenozi, P. Robinson, S. Kouris and L. Venizelos. (2008). In press. Monitoring stavnike fish‐traps and sea turtle bycatch at Patoku, Albania. Journal of Natural Sciences/Buletini i Shkencave Natyrore, December, 2008. 81. Witherington, B. E. and L. Ehrhart. (1989). Hypothermic stunning and mortality of marine turtles in the Indian River lagoon system, Florida. Copeia 1989: 696‐703. 82. Witherington, B. E. and S. Hirama. (2006). Little loggerheads packed with pelagic plastic. Pp. 137‐138. In: Pilcher, N. J., Compiler (2006). Proceedings of the Twenty‐Third Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS‐SEFSC‐536, 261 pp. 83. Wyneken, J. (2001). The anatomy of sea turtles. U.S. Department of Commerce NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS‐SEFSC‐470, 172pp. 84. Yntema, C. L. and N. Mrosovsky. (1980). Sexual differentiation in hatchling loggerheads incubated at different controlled temperatures. Herpetologica 36: 33‐36. 85. Ziza, V., Z. Marencic, R. Turk and L. Lipej. (2003). First data on the loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta in Slovenia (North Adriatic). Pp. 261‐264. In: Margaritoulis, D. and A. Demetropoulos (Editors). Proceedings of the First Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles. Barcelona Convention – Bern Convention – Bonn Convention (CMS). Nicosia, Cyprus. 270pp.
1) GPS co-ordinates (WGS 84) for important features in the Patoku / Gjiri i Drinit study area. 2) Dynamite usage. 3) At-sea and incidental encounters with turtles. 4) Detailed Workplan Objectives for the Patoku Project. 5) Fish species identified at (or known from) Patoku. 6) Commendation presented to Dr. White by the Qarku and Councillors of Lezhe. 7) Paper in press: “Monitoring Stavnike Fish-Traps And Sea Turtle Bycatch At Patoku, Albania”. Journal of Natural Sciences/Buletini i Shkencave Natyrore, Tirana. 8) Monthly budget required at Patoku in future years. 9) 2008 expenditure. 10) Project Awareness Material. 11) Project partners and Funders description. Project Staff.
Annexe 1 GPS co‐ordinates (WGS 84) for important features in the Patoku / Gjiri i Drinit study area
Location Patoku field‐station Lagoon southern exit Ishmit stavnike A Ishmit stavnike A/B Ishmit stavnike B
Latitude/Longitude N41 38.191 E19 35.327 N41 37.276 E19 35.004 N41 36.198 E19 33.349 N41 36.232 E19 33.349 N41 36.243 E19 33.394
Ishmit stavnike C Ishmit stavnike C/D
N41 36.039 E19 33.624 N41 36.068 E19 33.637
Ishmit stavnike D Seferi: Godull/Droja Old mouth of Ishmit Ishmit river mouth Rodonit stavnike W Rodonit stavnike E1 Rodonit stavnike E2 Rodonit stavnike E3 Rodonit stavnike E4 Rodonit stavnike E5 Rodonit stavnike E6 Skenderbeg Church Canal navigation mark
N41 36.082 E19 33.671 N41 35.782 E19 34.599 N41 36.898 E19 35.749 N41 34.728 E19 33.291 N41 35.018 E19 28.201 N41 34.778 E19 28.882 N41 34.504 E19 29.938 N41 34.334 E19 30.676 N41 34.411 E19 31.347 N41 34.627 E19 32.057 N41 34.896 E19 32.656 N41 35.148 E19 26.889 N41 34.971 E19 27.500
Location Canal entrance Canal midpoint Canal footbridge Canal/Matit Matit river mouth Shallow spit by Matit Stavnike Matit Old mouth of Matit Stavnike Tales E Stavnike Tales W Tales beach Vain stavnike S Vain stavnike N Vain beach Drinit river mouth Kuna stavnike 2 Prella stavnike Stavnike Çesku Stavnike TS1 Stavnike TS2
N41 38.253 E19 34.967
Latitude/Longitude N41 38.333 E19 34.842 N41 38.397 E19 34.768 N41 38.530 E19 34.615 N41 38.553 E19 34.567 N41 38.251 E19 34.239 N41 38.220 E19 34.145 N41 38.512 E19 34.126 N41 39.656 E19 34.065 N41 40.501 E19 34.357 N41 40.700 E19 34.186 N41 41.598 E19 34.757 N41 44.066 E19 34.341 N41 44.121 E19 34.330 N41 44.108 E19 34.637 N41 44.969 E19 34.080 N41 45.865 E19 34.865 N41 45.876 E19 34.324 N41 46.145 E19 35.371 N41 49.906 E19 32.069 N41 49.755 E19 32.416 N41 49.561 E19 32.821
Annexe 2 These explosions were heard at Patoku, and were probably from illegal dynamite‐fishing. Anecdotal evidence suggests that charges were home‐made (weed‐killer based). These events usually occurred early‐morning, and mostly from the directions of Ishmit and Tales.
Date 05/07/2008 05/07/2008 07/07/2008 14/07/2008 16/07/2008 22/07/2008 23/07/2008 28/07/2008 05/08/2008 06/08/2008 06/08/2008 13/08/2008 14/08/2008 15/08/2008 20/08/2008 21/08/2008 22/08/2008 25/08/2008 28/08/2008
Time 0945 1000 0730 0830 0740 0700 0735 0740 1230 0740 0842 0723 0726 0733 0635 0734 0741 0822 0742
Explosions N/A N/A 10 7 6 N/A 10 4 6 8 3 9 7 4 7 8 10 7 7
Place Tales Matit Tales Tales Tales Matit Tales Tales Tales Ishmit Tales Ishmit Ishmit Ishmit Ishmit Ishmit Ishmit Ishmit Ishmit
Notes Tales to Matit: saw charges being placed Many dead fishes Report of dead turtle on beach, no details Prof. Haxhiu saw many dead fishes Probably more; I was in restaurant Probably more; a noisy car came by
Annexe 3 At‐sea and incidental encounters with turtles. Some turtles were captured by fishermen working in very small boats and released immediately. Class of sighting is described above (under sea turtles). The names of fishermen are under ‘notes’; Mrezh is a type of gill‐net.
Annexe 4 Detailed Workplan Objectives for the Patoku Project Notes: i) Cells blocked in red were postponed due to lack of funds. ii) WPs should be underway by the ‘key date’ although they may have already been completed. iii) Most objectives are ongoing. Phase 1: Preparatory studies WP no
Develop research training programme
W/shop for potential researchers
Identify suitable researchers
Deliver training programme
Establish project base
Confirm research methodology
Construct aquarium facility
Identify suitable site for education centre
Identify locations where turtles are regularly seen/captured
Identify local sources of information on turtles
Record sightings of turtles at sea
Phase 2: Research programme WP no
Select fisheries for bycatch monitoring
Collaborate with interested fishermen
Define sea areas & allocate site designation codes
Determine usage patterns for different fishing gear types
Record presence & capture of sea turtles
Record environmental factors
Identify trends in results
Investigate sea turtle population dynamics
Record data from captured turtles
Identify individual turtles
Develop & establish central tagging database
Record evidence for site fidelity
Report presence of previously‐tagged turtles
Health assessment of turtles
Record health status of captured turtles
Administer appropriate treatment to selected animals
Arrange transportation for turtles requiring surgery
Define impacts on turtles
Interaction with fisheries
Determine if turtles are taken locally as a food resource
Determine if turtles are used in traditional medicine
Identify sources of pollution
Identify losses of habitat (actual or potential)
Facilitate appropriate research activities
Interviews and socio‐economics
Optional research endeavours
Rapid Survey assessment of possible nesting beaches
UHF satellite tracking (feasibility study)
Reassess possible overwintering grounds
Record sightings of other marine megafauna
Phase 3: Data dissemination & conservation WP no
Provide data to the Government of Albania
Identify critical habitats for turtles in Albanian waters
Develop GIS database (initially for Gjiri i Drinit)
Develop cooperation with important organisations
Liaise with other research groups
Liaise with other conservation groups
Develop communications network
Develop fund‐raising capacity for HAS
Develop & implement conservation objectives
Develop short‐ & medium‐term conservation measures
Develop management plans as required
Forge strong links with local community
Identify and encourage future sea turtle researchers Information onto websites (MEDASSET, Euroturtle, Ecat)
Establish education centre at Patoku
Create displays Train researchers/students as guides for centre's visitors
Design & produce leaflets, posters, T‐shirts etc.
Develop training courses & interactive workshops
Deliver environmental education
Identify & train veterinarians in sea turtle medicine
Encourage media access
Translate & distribute press releases
Television and press coverage
Produce PowerPoint presentations of Patoku research
Present Patoku research at international conferences
Publish results in peer‐reviewed journals
Phase 4: Fundraising & project evaluation WP no
Prepare budget estimates
Give presentations to interested donors
Secure sufficient funding to launch the project
Obtain funding for research in subsequent years
Jun ‐ 2008
Obtain funding for Education Centre at Patoku
Jun ‐ 2009
Hold regular progress meetings
First progress report
Second progress report
Translate reports into Albanian
Review, revise, add or delete objectives as necessary
Produce annual project summary
Provide donors with annual report
Feb ‐ 2009
Annexe 5 Fish species identified at (or known from) Patoku Note: ‘Shqip’ indicates the Albanian name, which could differ between fishermen Shqip
Plain red mullet
Barbuni i shkëmbit
Striped red mullet
Shkerpi i kuqe
& T. Trachurus
Grey trigger fish
S. Vulgaris/S. Aegyptus
Gjuhëza e Adriatikut
Atlantic flying fish
Bentwing flying fish
‘Serra’ in Greece
aka "Peshk lepur"
Kali i detit
& H. Ramulosus
Eyed electric ray
Golden grey mullet
Peshk shpatë Peshkaqen njeringrënës
Great white shark
Peshkaqen kokështypur Bluntnose six‐gill shark
& other spp.
Annexe 6 Commendation presented to Dr. White by the Qarku and Councillors of Lezhe
Annexe 7 “In press”: Journal of Natural Sciences/Buletini i Shkencave Natyrore, Tirana MONITORING STAVNIKE FISH‐TRAPS AND SEA TURTLE BYCATCH AT PATOKU, ALBANIA 1
Michael White , Idriz Haxhiu , Enerit Saçdanaku , Lazion Petritaj , Merita Rumano , Fundime Osmani , 2
Blerina Vrenozi , Prue Robinson , Stephanos Kouris and Lily Venizelos . 1
Centro Recupero Tartarughe Marine, Lampedusa ; Museum of Natural Sciences, University of Tirana ; Faculty of 3
Natural Sciences, University of Tirana ; Ministry of Environment, Tirana ; MEDASSET . Correspondence to: Dr Michael White, Centro Recupero Tartarughe Marine‐WWF, 92010 Lampedusa (AG), Italy. E‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
ABSTRACT Research began at Patoku Lagoon, Albania, in June 2008, monitoring an important sea turtle foraging ground; the project included researchers from Tirana University. The population structure of loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta captured as bycatch in stavnike fish‐traps was investigated. The traps yielded 103 turtles, which were tagged and released; 17 were subsequently recaptured. Ten remigrants had been tagged previously at Patok. Adult and adolescent male loggerheads were encountered. There was one juvenile green turtle Chelonia mydas. Keywords: Loggerhead turtle, Caretta caretta, foraging, bycatch, stavnike fish‐traps, Chelonia mydas. INTRODUCTION A yacht‐based rapid assessment of Albania’s coastal waters was conducted in October‐November 2005 as part of the MEDASSET (Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles) Marine Research Programme to determine the current distribution of sea turtles and Mediterranean Monk Seals Monachus monachus. The project works within the framework of the Strategic Action Plan for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean Region (SAP BIO) and the implementation of the Action Plans for the Management of the Mediterranean Monk Seal and for the Conservation of Mediterranean Marine Turtles under the United Nations Environment Programme Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP). During the voyage fishermen throughout Albania were interviewed about their encounters with turtles, seals and cetaceans. An important finding from these interviews was that large numbers (100’s) of marine turtles were reported from Albania’s northernmost bay at Patok; but they were rare, perhaps 2‐6 turtles in some years, in southern Albania. Loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta (Linnaeus, 1758) were caught as bycatch in stavnike fish‐traps and trawling operations in the broader Patok area: Gjiri i Drinit (White et al. 2006). A research programme that included researchers from Tirana University was planned for Patok, which would include monitoring the stavnike fish‐traps and other fishing activities; this began in June 2008 and continued throughout that summer. Collaborating closely with local fishermen, researchers were able to measure and tag many of the sea turtles that were caught incidentally in the stavnikes. We st
started work with Rakip Martini’s group of fishermen at Patoku on the 1 of June, and included a th
second group (Çal) on 18 June.
MATERIALS AND METHODS 1. Study area Gjiri i Drinit is a shallow sea (maximum depth 47 m) with a sand and mud substratum dominated by bivalves and crabs. Five sediment‐laden rivers (Bunës, Drinit, Matit, Droja and Ishmit) enter the bay bringing large amounts of terrestrial garbage, predominantly plastics, into the study area. The project base was established at Patoku Lagoon [N41°38.191′; E019°35.327′]. 2. Stavnikes Stavnikes are a type of fish trap, originating in Russia, introduced into Albania around 30 years ago, and then they were forgotten about until 2000, when the Patoku fishermen started to use them again. Two sets of traps were monitored closely: Ishmit [N41°36.198′; E019°33.349′]; Matit [N41°38.512′; E019°34.126′]. Note: Ishmit stavnikes were out of action for nine days in June & four days in July; the nets were removed for cleaning (algal growth). One trap was damaged in heavy weather th
(15/7/2008) but rebuilt; and both stavnikes were destroyed on 24 July and not rebuilt in this year (2008).
3. Trap construction A rectangular enclosure is erected in shallow water (depth 5‐6 m) some distance offshore, consisting of long wooden posts (length 8‐10 m, diameter 10‐15 cm) forced vertically into the seabed, with nets secured to them in an arrangement that allows easy access into the traps for fish and other marine animals. The number of posts required depends upon trap‐size, but the design is always similar. A stavnike is divided into sections (reception area, ante‐chamber, and collection chamber), which is repeated to form a double unit. A long barrier net extends from the fish‐traps to the beach (Ishmit stavnike was 1800 m offshore; Matit only 200 m); the traps are constructed to allow entry from either side of the barrier net. When fish or turtles encounter the barrier they have three choices: to turn left, right, or to go back the way they came; an area they may have just foraged. Turning beachwards leads them into shallower water. Animals entering the reception area are guided into successive chambers; escape from these is difficult although not impossible. 4. Fish catch Traps were emptied early each morning before the sun got too hot; harvesting was not possible in strong winds or heavy seas. Working from a small boat inside the enclosure the fishermen slowly raised the bottom net by hand, reducing the size of the collection chamber, until the catch could be emptied into the boat. Any turtles were lifted manually into the boat, which could be difficult with larger animals. Space in the boats is limited and sometimes turtles were released directly at the traps. Catches were monitored in three ways: i) direct observation at the traps ii) direct observation of the catch when the boats returned to Patoku iii) discussions with different fishermen about their catch (anecdotal evidence). Whether researchers went to the stavnikes or not largely depended upon the fishermen’s planned activities. On some mornings they emptied the traps and returned directly to Patoku about 3‐5 hours later, on other days they continued to different types of net elsewhere before returning to Patoku in the evening. 5. Sea turtles Turtles captured as bycatch were usually brought to our field base at Patoku, where animals were measured, photographed, tagged and released. Incidental tagging has been conducted in Albania since 2002 (Dalton’s Rototags: RAC/SPA, Tunis); these are now superseded by Stockbrand’s titanium tags with an Albanian address. 6. Morphometric data The curved carapace length (CCL) and curved carapace width (CCW) were measured and turtles allocated into 10 cm size‐classes (length‐frequency distribution) based on their CCL e.g. 40 cm size‐class range: 40.0‐49.9 cm et seq. (White, 2007). As an indicator of the stage of sexual development three measurements were recorded from the tail:
i) Distance from posterior margin of plastron to midline of cloacal opening (Plas‐clo) ii) Total tail length (TTL) iii) Distance from tip of tail to posterior margin of the carapace (+/‐ cara) RESULTS 1. Turtle bycatch There were 103 turtles captured in the two stavnikes during June and July 2008: Ishmit stavnike fished for 39 days and yielded 54 turtles (53 Caretta caretta; 1 Chelonia mydas); Matit stavnike fished for 34 days and yielded 49 loggerheads. 2. Size‐classes Almost half of the loggerheads (47%; n = 46 turtles) were in the 60 cm size‐class (Table 1). Only two had a curved carapace length (CCL) <50 cm; and two had CCL >80 cm. Mean CCL = 64.0 cm; SD = 7.3 cm; 95% confidence limit = 1.47; CCL range 45.5‐83.0 cm; n = 98 loggerheads (4 loggerheads were data deficient due to carapace damage). There was one small juvenile green turtle Chelonia mydas (CCL = 39.0 cm). 3. Health status Turtles were generally in good health: 13 loggerheads had visible carapace damage, probably caused by boat propellers. The carapace of one turtle was seriously fractured, but, as the animal was very vigorous, it was released again; and recaptured two weeks later. One loggerhead in Matit stavnike had been caught previously on a longline (monofilament line emerged from its mouth, but the swallowed hook could not be seen and was probably in the stomach). 4. Male turtles Carapace and tail measurements (cm) are given for 18 male loggerheads (4 adults; 14 adolescents) that were captured in stavnikes during June‐July 2008 (Table 2). Analyses of variance showed that the carapace measurements between adults and adolescents were significantly different (CCL: F =6.98, P<0.05. CCW: F =5.15, P<0.05). Analyses of variance showed that 1,16
there were highly significant differences in the three tail measurements between adult and adolescent male loggerheads (Plas‐clo: F =34.36, P<0.01. TTL: F =27.15, P<0.01. +/‐ cara: 1,16
=25.30, P<0.01). In two adolescents the tail had not yet extended beyond the carapace’s
posterior margin (+/‐ cara = ‐1.0 and ‐2.5 cm). 5. Serial recaptures Seventeen turtles tagged during this study (16 Cc & 1 Cm) were recaptured in stavnikes on more than one occasion (one was taken five times, two others on three occasions, and 14 turtles were captured twice). Seven turtles (6 Cc & 1 Cm) were captured in both stavnikes (4.5 km apart), whereas the other 10 recaptures were always in the same traps. 6. Remigrants Ten loggerheads had been tagged in previous years (all at Patok); the earliest in 2003. 7. Tag loss Three Caretta caretta (3%; n = 102 loggerheads) had, apparently, lost their flipper‐tags; the size, shape and location of holes in their flippers suggested rototags had been previously applied. The plastic rototags on several loggerheads (n = 5) were heavily encrusted with barnacles; one rototag was barely legible after just five years. 8. Epibiotic fauna Forty‐two loggerheads had barnacles (chelonibia or lepas spp.) attached to the carapace and/or head; six turtles were very heavily encrusted with epibiotic fauna. DISCUSSION Stavnikes appear to be a ‘turtle‐friendly’ method of fishing. Perhaps the most important factor is that turtles entering the traps can swim around and, crucially, surface to breathe normally;
whereas in trawls, for example, many captured turtles will drown. There was one observation of a loggerhead eating a fish inside a stavnike, and so in‐trap foraging is also a possibility. An important conclusion was that entrapped turtles were not deterred from foraging locally, despite being manhandled out of the nets, and then being landed for measuring and tagging. The evidence for this is that 17 turtles were recaptured in stavnikes on more than one occasion. Such serial recaptures indicate that at least some turtles showed short‐term fidelity to Patoku foraging grounds (16 Caretta caretta; 1 Chelonia mydas). Ten of the loggerheads released from Patok were recaptured in the same trap, either Matit or Ishmit, indicating that they foraged in a localised part of the bay. Another seven turtles (6 Cc & 1 Cm) were captured in both stavnikes (4.5 km apart), perhaps showing that they utilised a more extensive foraging area. Patoku (& Gjiri i Drinit) is frequented by larger juvenile and adult loggerheads (Table 1). Data so far suggest that adult females are not using the Patoku foraging ground (one 80 cm CCL turtle may have been female, but this remains unconfirmed). However, this research coincided with the egg‐ laying period in the Mediterranean region, and perhaps adult females will be encountered later in the year (post‐nesting). Ten loggerheads had been tagged in previous years (all at Patoku), the earliest in 2003; these indicate repeat migrations either to Patoku or enroute elsewhere. Tag loss (3% seen in this study) can result in a turtle receiving new tag numbers, thus its previous life‐ history remains incomplete and population assessments may be overestimated (Balazs, 1999; White, 2007). A juvenile green turtle Chelonia mydas (CCL = 39 cm) was in Ishmit stavnike (June); regionally this species nests only in the northeastern Mediterranean, and more usually has a tropical distribution. The distribution and lifestyle of male turtles is not as well known as that of females. Patoku may be a male foraging and developmental habitat, as 20% of loggerheads tagged in June were males (adult=4; adolescent=9); there were five more adolescent males in July. This discovery has added importance because of the potential feminising‐effect of climate‐change on global turtle populations (Davenport, 1989). The development of secondary sexual characteristics in adolescent turtles occurs across a range of year‐classes (Limpus and Limpus, 2003; White, 2007). Morphological changes indicating the onset of male adolescence (proximal thickening and elongation of the tail) were observed in 14 loggerheads at Patoku (Table 2). These animals were mostly in CCL size‐classes 60 and 70 cm; the smallest turtle showing clear tail development had a CCL= 59.5 cm. The tail tip of the largest adolescent (CCL= 74.0 cm) was still 2.5 cm short of the carapace’s posterior margin. These bycatch records represent an unknown proportion of turtles using Gjiri i Drinit: only two traps were monitored regularly, and we do not know how many turtles of those present in the area actually enter traps. Saturation tagging has yet to be achieved locally. It was not logistically possible to monitor all the stavnikes in Gjiri i Drinit (we located 18 traps in the bay, which is about 30 km north to south); we lacked a sea‐going boat and the local roads were in very poor condition. Fishermen from other areas were interviewed about their encounters with turtles whenever possible. In the Mediterranean region the marine ecology of sea turtles, and their marine distribution patterns, both geographical and temporal, are largely unknown (Margaritoulis et al. 2003; White, 2007). Although the monitoring programme at Patoku is still in its early stages, we can confirm that substantial numbers of Caretta caretta are present in Gjiri i Drinit during the summer months.
CONCLUSION Sea turtles described in this study were captured in stavnikes in Gjiri i Drinit (June‐July 2008): most were large loggerheads Caretta caretta, but there was one juvenile green turtle Chelonia mydas. Ten loggerheads had been tagged at Patok in previous years, suggesting that Albania forms part of their migratory route. Tag‐loss can lead to population overestimation. Seventeen turtles showed short‐term residency in the bay, which was demonstrated through their subsequent recaptures in fish‐traps. These serial recaptures also suggest that being caught in a stavnike does not deter turtles from foraging locally. Male sea turtles (4 adults, 14 adolescents) were captured at Patoku, suggesting that they may use the area as a developmental and foraging habitat. This discovery has increased importance due to our presently limited understanding of the distribution and marine ecology of male sea turtles; and the threatened impact of global climate‐change, which may force embryonic sex‐ratios towards female‐dominance. Therefore it is recommended that Gjiri i Drinit is legally recognised as a nationally and regionally important foraging habitat for sea turtles; and that these endangered migratory animals are fully protected under Albanian national law. LITERATURE CITED BALAZS, G. H. (1999): Factors to consider in the tagging of sea turtles. Pp. 101‐109. In: Eckert, K. L.; K. A. Bjorndal; F. A. Abreu‐Grobois and M. Donnelly (Editors). (1999). Research and management techniques for the conservation of sea turtles. IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group Publication No. 4. pp. 235. DAVENPORT, J. (1989): Sea turtles and the Greenhouse Effect. British Herpetological Society Bulletin 29: pp. 11‐15. LIMPUS, C. J., LIMPUS, D. J. (2003): Biology of the loggerhead turtle in Western South Pacific Ocean foraging areas. Pp.93‐113. In: Bolten, A. B. and B. E. Witherington (Editors). Loggerhead sea turtles. Smithsonian Books, Washington. pp. 319. MARGARITOULIS, D., ARGANO, R., BARAN, I., BENTIVEGNA, F., BRADAI, M. N., CAMINAS, J. A., CASALE, P., DE METRIO, G., DEMETROPOULOS, A., GEROSA, G., GODLEY, B. J., HADDOUD, D. A., HOUGHTON, J., LAURENT, L., LAZAR, B. (2003): Loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean Sea: Present knowledge and conservation perspectives. Pp. 175‐198. In: Bolten, A. B. and B. E. Witherington (Editors). Loggerhead sea turtles. Smithsonian Books, Washington. pp. 319. WHITE, M. G. (2007): Marine ecology of loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta (Linnaeus, 1758) in the Ionian Sea: Observations from Kefalonia and Lampedusa. Ph.D. Thesis, University College Cork, Ireland. pp. 300. WHITE, M., HAXHIU, I., KOUROUTOS, V., GACE, A., VASO, A., BEQIRAJ, S., PLYTAS, A. (2006): Rapid assessment survey of important marine turtle and monk seal habitats in the coastal area of Albania, October‐November 2005. (Available from www.MEDASSET.org). This research was co‐funded by: MEDASSET; MEDASSET (UK); RAC/SPA; UNDP (GEF/SGP); UNEP‐MAP. Partners were: MEDASSET; RAC/SPA; UNDP (GEF/SGP); UNEP‐MAP; HAS, ECAT (Tirana); Ministry of the Environment, Tirana; Museum of Natural Sciences; University of Tirana.
Table 1. Number of loggerheads in each 10 cm size‐class of CCL CCL 40 50 60 70 80 Total June 0 17 26 17 2 62 July 2 10 20 4 0 36
Table 2. Carapace and tail morphometric data (cm) for 18 male loggerhead turtles. Legend: CCL curved carapace length; CCW curved carapace width; Plas‐clo distance from posterior margin of plastron to midline of cloaca; TTL total tail length; +/‐ cara tip of tail to posterior margin of carapace. The final four turtles are adult, the others adolescent. *may have just reached maturity. CCL CCW Plas‐clo TTL +/‐ cara 59.5 56.0 11.0 14.5 0.5 62.0 62.0 14.5 17.0 1.5 62.5 57.0 12.5 15.0 ‐1.0 63.0 57.0 12.5 15.0 1.0 65.0 61.0 15.5 20.0 3.0 69.0 65.0 16.0 20.0 3.0 69.5 65.0 16.0 20.0 3.5 70.0 64.0 18.0 22.5 4.0 71.0 64.0 18.0 24.0 5.0 71.5 68.0 21.0 27.0 10.0* 72.0 67.0 18.0 23.0 5.5 23.0 29.0 11.0 73.0 70.0 73.0 65.0 18.0 22.0 3.5 74.0 69.0 15.0 16.0 ‐2.5 71.0 63.0 24.0 28.0 12.0 71.0 66.0 29.0 34.5 12.0 78.0 73.0 27.0 34.0 13.0 83.0 78.0 38.0 44.0 16.5
Annexe 8 Monthly budget required at Patoku in future years Note: This budget is based on what our actual costs at Patoku were during the research period in 2008; and should form the basis for fund‐raising in future years (€4000 per month). The ‘additional budget’ allows another part‐time student researcher to be trained, thus enhancing capacity‐building. However, the best option is to obtain even more funds, which would allow several students to live and study on the project, thus maximising our capacity‐building endeavours. If we contribute to additional fishermen’s groups then that component will need increasing too. Finally, the at‐sea surveys are done on an ad hoc basis and include visits to other sea areas, such as Kepi i Rodonit or Vain stavnikes. Accommodation Food Pocket Money Office Phone Benzene Benzene Benzene & Boat Rent Benzene & Boat Rent Field Expenses Total per month
White & 1 student‐full time Student White & Haxhiu (2x6000) White Haxhiu Fishermen ‐ Rakip Group Fishermen ‐ Cal Group Haxhiu (20 days x 6,000)
Leke 84,000 92,000 30,500 12,000 12,000 20,000 25,000 40,000 40,000 120,000 475,500
Euro 700.00 766.67 254.17 100.00 100.00 166.67 208.33 333.33 333.33 1000.00 3962.50
Total ( 4 Months) Note: Additional Budget 2nd Student 15 days (Food & Pocket Money) Entertainment hosting visitors At‐sea surveys 10,000/ day Subtotal Total per month
1,902,000 38,000 15,000 50,000 103,000 578,500
15850.00 316.67 125.00 416.67 858.33 4820.83
Total (4 Months)
Includes additional budget
Annexe 9 2008 expenditure
Annex 10 Project Awareness Materials T‐SHIRTS Front
LEAFLET Front Back
Annex 11 Project partners: MEDASSET; UNDP GEF/SGP; UNEP‐MAP RAC/SPA; HAS; ECAT (Tirana); Ministry of the Environment, Tirana; Museum of Natural Sciences, University of Tirana; Faculty of Natural Sciences, University of Tirana. Funders: MEDASSET Greece; MEDASSET UK; GEF/SGP; RAC/SPA UNEP‐MAP MEDASSET – The Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles – is an international non‐governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1988, working for the conservation of sea turtles and their habitats throughout the Mediterranean. It has been involved in conservation and scientific research programmes, public awareness, environmental education and lobbying decision‐makers. E‐mail: MEDASSET@MEDASSET.org UNDP’s GEF/SGP ‐ The United Nations Development Programme / GEF Small Grants Programme Established in 1992, the year of the Rio Earth Summit, The GEF Small Grants Programme [SGP] embodies the very essence of sustainable development. By providing financial and technical support to projects in developing countries that conserve and restore the natural world while enhancing well‐being and livelihoods, SGP demonstrates that community action can maintain the fine balance between human needs and environmental imperatives. Focal Point: Mr. Arian Gace: email@example.com UNEP/MAP’s RAC/SPA, United Nations Environment Programme Mediterranean Action Plan’s Regional Activity for Specially Protected Areas‐ SPA was established by the contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its protocols with the aim of assisting Mediterranean countries in the implementation of the Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas in the Mediterranean. RAC/SPA’s mission is to assist the Parties in establishing and managing specially protected areas, conducting programmes of scientific and technical research, conducting the exchange of scientific and technical information between the Parties, preparing management plans for protected areas and species, developing cooperation programmes among the Parties, and preparing educational materials designed for various groups. E‐mail: atef.ouerghi@rac‐ spa.org Herpetofauna’s Albanian Society (H.A.S) was established in 2001 and directed by Prof. Idriz Haxhiu; this society includes Professors, Doctors and specialists in Biological Science, Biologists, Biology Teachers and Students. The specialists of H.A.S have participated in many meetings, conferences, congresses, symposia and seminars organized within Albania and abroad. Activities are related to the protection and monitoring of the environment and different species, especially those that are endangered. The Project “Marine Turtle Conservation: Protection, public awareness and tagging” has been carried out from 2002‐2005. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Water Administration, Nature Protection Policy, Tirana, Albania, Director: Mr. Sajmir Hoxha. The Albanian government has identified and prepared four National Action Plans (NAPs) in the framework of the Strategic Action Programme for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean Region (SAP BIO). One of these NAP aims is the proclamation of the Marine National Park of Karaburuni area, which will be the first Marine Park in Albania ECAT, Tirana: The Environmental Centre for Administration and Technology is a non‐profit organization developed to assist local governmental and non‐governmental organizations, as well as industries and educational institutions, in the development and implementation of projects, programmes of action, and policy instruments to improve the environment. E‐mail: ecat@ecat‐tirana.org
Project staff Dr Michael White (Principal investigator & project leader) Prof. Idriz Haxhiu (Director of the Museum of Natural Sciences, University of Tirana) Enerit Saçdanaku (Student of Biology, University of Tirana) Lazion Petritaj (Student of Biology, University of Tirana) Stephanos Kouris (MEDASSET: Director / Project Manager) Prue Robinson (MEDASSET: Environmental Scientist ‐ conservation development) Lily Venizelos (President of MEDASSET) Occasional staff Merita Rumano (Ministry of Environment, Tirana) Fundimje Osmani (Museum of Natural Sciences, University of Tirana) Blerina Vrenozi (Museum of Natural Sciences, University of Tirana) Aliki Dona (MEDASSET volunteer– database design) Liza Boura (MEDASSET ‐ Environmental Scientist)