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Contributions to the Zoogeography and Ecology of the Eastern Mediterranean Region Vol. 1 (1999), pp.447-450

CONSERVATION STATUS OF SEA TURTLES IN THE NORTHEASTERN MEDITERRANEAN: THREE CASE STUDIES L. VENIZELOS Abstract: An account of the conservation status of the breeding sea turtle species of the northeastern Mediterranean is given in the present paper. Data from the breeding areas in Greece (Zakynthos Isl.), Cyprus and Turkey (Dalyan) are presented, as well as recommendations for further conservation of these species. Περίληψη: Στην παρούσα εργασία συζητείται η κατάσταση προστασίας των Θαλασσίων χελωνών πού αναπαράγονται στη βορειοανατολική Μεσόγειο. ∆ίνονται δεδοµένα για τις σηµαντικότερες περιοχές αναπαραγωγής στην Ελλάδα (Ζάκυνθος), την Κύπρο και την Τουρκία (Dalyan), καθώς και συστάσεις για την περαιτέρω προστασία των ειδών αυτών. INTRODUCTION Two species of sea turtles have breeding populations in the Mediterranean: Caretta caretta (Loggerhead turtle) and Chelonίa mydas (Green turtle). Recently (July `95) a comprehensive survey of the eastern Libyan coast (RAC/SPA/UNEP) has identified important nesting sites for Loggerhead between Syrte and the Egyptian border. Both species are listed; Loggerhead as vulnerable and Green as endangered. The total populations for these species are estimated at 2,000-4,000 breeding adults for loggerhead (GROOMBRIDGE 1990) and 500-1,000 adults for Green (DEMETROPOULOS & HADJICHRISTOPHOROU 1995). It is estimated that some 50,000 incidental catches take place annually due to interaction with fisheries. Mortality so caused could be in excess of 10,000 (GROOMBRIDGE 1990). GREECE-ZAKYNTHOS In Greece, the island of Zakynthos (which lies off the northwest coast of the Peloponnisos in the Ionian sea) has, in Laganas Bay, the largest known nesting density of Loggerhead in the Mediterranean (1995: 2,080 nests on a total of 3.9km.). To date, 1,968 sea turtles have been tagged in Zakynthos since 1982. Beaches around the west of the Bay are now unsuitable for nesting due to tourist disturbance and development. Turtles only nest on 3.9km, of the total 9km. of the Bay. The Loggerhead in Laganas Bay are severely threatened by development, both legal and illegal, of nesting beaches. Since 1984, failure by the state, to somehow compensate some local landowners affected by conservation legislation, has resulted in strong opposition to turtle conservation in general. Land in Sekania, which concentrates 51% of all nesting activity in the Bay on a total of 0,35km, was purchased by the WWF, partly with E.U. funds, to protect this important site. Since 1983, Non Governmental Organisations have been actively involved in data collection, lobbying, public awareness projects for tourists and local schools, monitoring nesting beaches. These actions have generated immense international interest in the plight of the Zakynthos turtles. Evening charter flights to the island have been banned (1995) and legislation banning speed boats and regulating sea traffic has been in power since 1994. Existing powerful legislation, already in place for the protection of turtles on land and at sea, has yet to be implemented. Greece has ratified most international conservation Conventions. However, the long heralded National Marine Park has yet to be established in the Laganas area. Other important nesting sites in Greece include the bays of Lakonikos (216 nests on a total of 23km of beach, 1994) and Kyparissia (700 nests on a total of 10km of beach, 1994) in the Peloρennisos (data from Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece - STPS). Furthermore, on the island of Crete a total of 729 nests have been identified (STPS): Chania (153 nests on a total of 17km of beach), Rethymnon (516 nests on a total of 17km of beach), Messara Bay (60 nests on a total of 90km of beach).


Contributions to the Zoogeography and Ecology of the Eastern Mediterranean Region Vol. 1 (1999), pp.447-450

CYPRUS Both Green and Loggerhead turtles breed regularly on the island's west coast north of Paphos, mainly in the Lara-Toxeftra area. It is estimated that about 100 Green turtles are nesting on the island's west coast, (DEMETROPOULOS & HADJICHRISTOPHOROU 1995). Proposed development for tourism in the Toxeftra area has become an imminent threat to turtle conservation. The LARA hatchery and head starting project is the only one of its kind in the Mediterranean, releasing about 40,000 hatchlings in to the sea every year. This is approximately 3-4 times the number that would normally reach the sea if nests are not transferred. Cyprus has ratified several Conventions for the protection of turtles, which are also protected by legislation. Beaches on the northern shores of Cyprus have essentially lost any imminent tourist threat. It has recently (BRODERICK & GODLEY 1995), been, that these beaches support a very significant proportion of the Mediterranean's nesting Green turtles. Results for 1995 show that 120 Green and 173 Loggerhead Turtles nested on the northern beaches of Cyprus, representing approximately one fourth and one tenth respectively of the estimated Mediterranean female populations of these species. TURKEY - DALYAN Dalyan in Turkey, has a relatively high number of nesting Loggerhead turtles (235 nests recorded in 1989, ERK'AΚAΝ & CANBOLAT 1990) and plays an important role as an outpost at the western edge of this species' nesting sites. The nesting beach spans 4km and forms a unit with the nearby beaches of Dalyanagzi (0.2km) and Ekincik (0.4km). Loggerhead often come in to the river for feeding and mating. Predation of eggs and of hatchlings, both on land and at sea, is high. The physical impact of about 4,000 uninformed tourists, daily to the beach, has a detrimental effect on the ecology of the site and on the turtles. Daily, about 500-600 boats, overladen with tourists, visit the area causing large waves that erode the reed beds near the beach. Sea traffic is also affecting the highly endangered river-dwelling Trionyx triunguis soft shelled turtle. Dalyan suffers from lack of appropriate legislation and non implementation of laws. It is thanks to the national and international NGO's campaigns since 1986, that Dalyan and its turtles have become a prominent international conservation issue. Turkey holds the largest known number of Loggerhead and Green turtles in the Mediterranean, in 1988, the Green nesting population was estimated at approximately 300-350 females p.a. (WWF 1989). Nesting of Loggerhead and Green turtles occurs on the southern Turkish coast on almost a11 physically suitable beaches, from the Dalyan region in the west to the Syrian border in the east. Green turtle nesting is confined to a few eastern beaches (WWF 1989). Seventeen major beaches were identified in 1988 (including Dalyan) which are of vital importance. Five nesting areas were designated as Special Protected Areas in 1989 by the Turkish Authority for the Protection of Special Areas. Important offshore sea grass foraging areas were identified in the south, which seem to be of particular importance for the maturing turtles. Turtles in Turkey are under serious threat from both present and planned tourist development, marine pollution, sand and shingle extraction, fisheries interaction, intentional killing, and a high level of nest predation. Turkey is a signatory of several international Conventions for the protection of wildlife. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CONSERVATION Conservation priorities and actions throughout the Mediterranean to save the remaining sea turtles should include: • Further research to access a11 remaining potential nesting beaches. • Minimisation of the impact of fishery interaction, complete banning of drift netting. • Development, activation, implementation and enforcement of national, local and international legislation and of international Conventions. • Immediate cessation and banning of exploitation (trade) and international harvesting of turtles. • Protection and management of nesting areas, further investigation to identify wintering and feeding areas. • Public awareness and environmental education programs for tourists, local people, and schools. • Further research for information on migratory patterns, behavior, and population dynamics. • Measures(mandatory exclusion zones) to avoid oil spills by ships in sensitive areas. • International efforts to manage the species during its' migratory period. • A review of the legal obligations of Mediterranean countries under the Conservation Conventions in force.


Contributions to the Zoogeography and Ecology of the Eastern Mediterranean Region Vol. 1 (1999), pp.447-450

• Countries not having developed the necessary legislation for the establishment and management of protected areas for marine turtles should be encouraged to do so and to implement the above. REFERENCES BRODERICK A.C. & GODLEY B.J. 1995. Glasgow University Conservation Expedition to the Northern Shores of Cyprus: 1995 Expedition Report, Peoples Trust for Endangered Species, Glasgow, 21p. DEMETROPOULOS A. & HADJICHRISTOPHOROU Μ. 1995. Μanυal onτ Marine Turtle Conservation in the Mediterranean UNEP/ΜAΡ RAC/SPA. ERK'AΚAΝ F. & CANBOLAT A.F. 1990. Investigation on the biology of Loggerhead sea turtles using Dalyan Beach for nesting and their protection from environmental effects. EuroCoast 1990, Proceedings in Littoral. GROOMBRIDGE Β. 1990. Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean. A Report to the Council of Europe Environment Conservation and Management Division, C.O.E. Publishing and Documentation Service. WWF 1989. Marine Turtles of the Eastern Mediterranean. Report to the Council of Europe. MEDASSET – Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles, lc Likavitou Street, 106 72 Athens, Greece


Conservation status of sea turtles in the Mediterranean: three case studies.