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VENIZELOS, L. 2000. Ten years of marine turtle conservation in the Mediterranean (1989-1999). Proceedings of the 20th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation (29 Feb. - 4 March 2000) (in press).

TEN YEARS OF MARINE TURTLE CONSERVATION IN THE MEDITERRANEAN (1989-1999) L. Venizelos MEDASSET: The Mediterranean Association to Save Sea Turtles, c/o 24 Park Towers, 2 Brick Str., London W1Y 7DF, UK INTRODUCTION From the seven species of marine turtles that occur in the world, three are frequently found in the Mediterranean: the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green turtle (Chelonia mydas) that have nesting beaches and the visiting leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea). MEDASSET, the Mediterranean Association to Save Sea Turtles, was set up in 1988 to protect the remaining populations of marine turtles in the Mediterranean. Since 1989, ten areas have been assessed from Sardinia to the N.E. Aegean Sea and from the Ionian Sea to the shores of Egypt and Libya, covering 7,300 km. Financial support came from various sources, including the EC and international intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations. After ten years of conservation work, it is seen that the main problems are the non-implementation of legislation protecting marine turtles, tourism development and fisheries interactions. Public awareness campaigns, environmental education programmes and lobbying of involved parties are thus vital to keep this subject in the limelight to instigate positive action by the appropriate authorities. METHODS In the period 1990-1999, MEDASSET has surveyed coastal areas with previously unknown or unconfirmed levels of marine turtle nesting. This is to target areas that are in need of specific protection with regard to marine turtles, whether it is for nesting or offshore populations (see figure 1). Figure 1. MEDASSET Research Activities 1989-1999.


VENIZELOS, L. 2000. Ten years of marine turtle conservation in the Mediterranean (1989-1999). Proceedings of the 20th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation (29 Feb. - 4 March 2000) (in press).

Nesting surveys have been carried out in Sardinia (Whitmore et al., 1991), N. Aegean Greek waters (Kasparek, 1991), Syria (Kasparek & Baumgart, 1991), Libya (Laurent et al., 1995, 1999) and Egypt (Kasparek, 1993). Surveys were also carried out for Trionyx triunguis in Turkey in 1998 and 1999 (Kasparek, 1999) to determine the status of this highly endangered species, which uses a complex of marine, brackish and riverine habitats. During each survey a detailed inventory of all the beaches is made (including descriptions of fauna, flora and geomorphology) and on the level of development. Where required, interviews with the locals and fishermen were also carried out. Recommendations for protective legislation and for implementation of existing legislation and protective measures were made to the states involved where important ecosystems of turtle nesting sites were found. Follow-up efforts for the implementation of the above and conservation efforts were instigated. Conservation assessments have been carried out to determine the factors affecting turtle nesting, such as tourism and coastal development. The impact of tourism and other development on loggerhead nesting was investigated in S.W. Peloponese, Greece (Whitmore, 1989). In 1999, a study of the ecology and the impact of tourism on the sand dunes bordering the main nesting beach of Kefalonia Island, Greece (Roche, 1999) and a follow-up assessment of the status of three key green turtle nesting beaches in Turkey (Demirayak, 1999) were made. MEDASSET has supported satellite-tracking programmes (1997-1999) in collaboration with the Stazione Zoologica - “Anton Dohrn” (Naples, Italy) and with Glasgow University and Swansea University (UK) in Cyprus. Also supported was a long-term study from 1989-1995 on incidental captures in the Ionian Sea, Greek waters, in collaboration with captains of eight vessels, investigating the impact of the swordfish long line fishery on marine turtles (Panou et al., 1999). The organisation is also an Observer at the Council of Europe Convention of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) and the Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution and its Related Protocols (Barcelona Convention) Meetings. Since 1988, it has presented yearly updates and technical reports with recommendations to various governments, exerting pressure for change, mainly regarding five Mediterranean nesting areas: Zakynthos and Kefalonia in Greece, Patara and Dalyan in Turkey and Akamas in Cyprus. Public awareness and environmental education projects have made a huge impact, ranging from media coverage, tourist surveys to talks at schools. The “Euro-Turtle” Website, created with Exeter University and King’s College, is an educational and research database for the conservation of Mediterranean marine turtles. The Website has received 42,000 visitors in 1998-1999 and won an award as one of the 6 best environmental education websites in Europe.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION The surveys carried out were important in determining which areas in the Mediterranean are host to the most significant nesting populations and require most conservation efforts. The surveys revealed that loggerhead nesting to different degrees occurs in Egypt, Libya and Syria, while offshore populations were confirmed for the North Aegean and Sardinian waters. Follow-up surveys are recommended to determine more accurately the size of these nesting populations, particularly for Libya. The Libyan coastline is still relatively undeveloped and a management plan with legislation is recommended for this area. Whether nesting of the green turtle occurs in Syria has still to be ascertained. Levels of loggerhead nesting in these areas were not as high as those found in Greece and Turkey. The surveys also confirm that nesting levels of green turtles are very low in the Mediterranean and seem to be limited to Turkey and Cyprus. Considering the highly endangered status of the green turtle, priority should be given to its protection. In 1998-1999, new populations of Trionyx triunguis were found in Turkey (Kasparek, 1999). MEDASSET has been instrumental in creating a legal framework for the protection of marine turtles in the Mediterranean. One of the main projects is in Zakynthos, which hosts one of the largest nesting populations of loggerheads in the Mediterranean. The uphill struggle of ensuring the enforcement of these laws has been an ongoing priority since 1983 (before MEDASSET was officially founded). An official complaint by MEDASSET to the European Commission in 1994 resulted in a European Court of Justice case in 1999. This was instrumental in hastening the signing of the Presidential Decree in December 1999, that declared the National Marine Park of Zakynthos after 17 years of campaigning.


VENIZELOS, L. 2000. Ten years of marine turtle conservation in the Mediterranean (1989-1999). Proceedings of the 20th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation (29 Feb. - 4 March 2000) (in press).

Up until now most conservation efforts concerned with marine turtles have focused on the protection of nesting beaches. Difficulties in implementing conservation measures have been faced, in particular where there are conflicting interests with coastal and tourist development. In relatively undeveloped areas, collaboration with the local authorities in creating a sustainable management plan will hopefully prevent such clashes. Although it is difficult to study the marine turtle at sea, such studies provide invaluable information on population size and distribution, feeding grounds, over wintering areas and migratory routes. The satellite tracking programmes carried out provided information on the movements of female turtles after nesting (including green turtles) and that of a juvenile rehabilitated turtle. Knowledge on the main threats facing the turtles in the sea is rather limited. A main threat is posed by interaction with fisheries, which includes incidental captures in drift nets, trawls and long lines. Drift nets have now largely been prohibited by EC regulations, (drift netting with more than 2.5km nets was banned by EC regulation 345/92) but has not been fully enforced. In the study on incidental captures (1989-1999) in the Ionian Sea (Panou et al., 1999) 157 loggerheads (mainly juveniles) were caught in 142 out of a total of 758 swordfish long line fishing trips (18.1%); an average of 7.7 turtles per year and vessel. The collaboration of the fishermen in the project yielded significant results - all turtles caught by incidental capture were released alive. A decline in the frequency of incidental captures over the total period of investigation was recorded. There was also sensitisation of the local public throughout the study area. Incidental captures may also result in unintentional or deliberate harm to turtles by fishermen or the exploitation of turtles, including consumption of eggs (as seen in Syria), the sale of sea turtles and their parts and consumption of their meat and blood, as was observed in Egypt. Also an important ongoing campaign in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment of Egypt was started in 1999 to reduce the exploitation of turtles in the fish markets of Alexandria. In recent years, there have been increasing efforts to bring the non-implementation of the legislation protecting turtles to the attention of the various governments involved by intergovernmental, environmental and scientific institutions. It has to be ensured that the legislation covers all fishery interactions as well as the protection of nesting areas, foraging and wintering grounds. Measures have to be taken to ensure that the existing legislation, which protects marine turtles, is enforced at a local level. Within this respect, authorities should be designated and penalties introduced to ensure protection of the turtles. There has to be responsibility for the management of the fishery industry. Non-governmental organisations have an important role in turtle conservation. They continue to lobby governments and other involved authorities to ensure that the conservation of marine turtles remains a priority. The education and public awareness programmes run by NGOs also ensure that the plight of the marine turtle is kept in high profile. These are not only targeted towards certain groups (landowners, fishermen, legislators and tourists) but to a broad segment of society. This will helpfully promote the understanding that protecting marine turtles is part of an overall aim to maintain the biodiversity on this planet. CONCLUSIONS MEDASSET sees various areas as requiring immediate attention. In spite of conservation measures, recommendations and protective legislation, there has been little progress for the effective protection of sea turtles. Governments and other authorities involved should be set clear targets for necessary conservation actions in the Mediterranean. These should be given priority over research expenditure with the latter reserved only for applied conservation projects. All conservation matters concerning the highly endangered Chelonia mydas to be given the absolute priority. All pragmatic opportunities should be recognised and pursued in ensuring the conservation of nesting beaches and offshore feeding areas on the northern shores of Cyprus, particularly for Chelonia mydas. A follow-up assessment of the Libyan coast to investigate further potential nesting areas and to implement a management plan. Legislation to control fisheries interactions. Consideration given to resolving the plight of Trionyx triunguis. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS We would like to thank warmly all the individuals and organisations that have been involved with us in marine turtle conservation over the years, many of whom are listed below. LITERATURE CITED Demirayak, F. 1999. Status of the green turtle Chelonia mydas on the Turkish Mediterranean coast. Specific Site report to The Standing Committee to the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention), T-PVS (99)74, 26 pages. Godley, B.J., R. Thomson & A.C. Broderick 1998. Glasgow University Turtle Conservation Expedition to northern Cyprus 1998. Expedition Report, 17 pages. Kasparek, M. 1991. Marine turtles in Greece. Results of a survey of potential nesting beaches in the northern Aegean Sea. Funded by the DG XIB/EC (under contract No. 6610(90) 4313) and MEDASSET. 159 pages.


VENIZELOS, L. 2000. Ten years of marine turtle conservation in the Mediterranean (1989-1999). Proceedings of the 20th International Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation (29 Feb. - 4 March 2000) (in press).

Kasparek, M. 1993. Marine turtle conservation in the Mediterranean. Marine Turtles in Egypt. Phase I: survey of the Mediterranean coast between Alexandria and El-Salum. Joint project of MEDASSET and RAC/SPA (UNEP/MAP), in cooperation with National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries Egypt (NIOF). 75 pages. Kasparek, M. 1995. The nesting of marine turtles on the coast of Syria. Zoology in the Middle East 11:51-62. Kasparek, M. 1999. An assessment on the status of the Nile soft-shelled turtle (Trionyx triunguis), in Turkey with recommendations for conservation. Testudo, The Journal of the British Chelonia Group 5(1):40-52. Kasparek, M. & W. Baumgart 1994. Marine turtle conservation in the Mediterranean. Marine turtles in Syria. Survey of the Syrian coast. Funded by Herpetofauna Conservation International, UK (HCI) and MEDASSET. 19 pages. Laurent, L., M.N. Bradai, D.A. Hadoud & H.E. Gomati 1995. Marine turtle nesting activity assessment on Libyan coasts. Phase 1: survey of the coasts between the Egyptian border and Sirte. Joint project of (in alphabetical order): Marine Biology Research Centre (Tajura, Libya), MEDASSET, RAC/SPA (UNEP/MAP), Technical Centre for Environment Protection (TCEP, Tripoli), WWF International Mediterranean Programme. 68 pages. Laurent, L., M.N. Bradai, D.H. Hadoud, H.M.E. El Gomati & A.A. Hamza 1999. Marine turtle nesting activity assessment on Libyan coasts. Phase III: survey of the coast to the west of Misratah. Joint project of (in alphabetical order): Marine Biology Research Centre (Tajura, Libya), MEDASSET, RAC/SPA (UNEP/MAP), Technical Centre for Environment Protection (TCEP, Tripoli), WWF International Mediterranean Programme. 47 pages. Panou, A., L. Tselentis, N. Voutsinas, C. Mourelatos, S. Kaloupi, V. Voutsinas & S. Moschonas 1999. Incidental catches of marine turtles in surface long lone fishery in the Ionian Sea, Greece. Contributions to the zoogeography and ecology of the eastern Mediterranean region 1:435-445. Roche, N. 1999. Caretta caretta – Mounda beach (Kaminia and Potamakia) in Kefalonia (Greece). Specific Site report to The Standing Committee to the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention), T-PVS(99)72, 42 pages. Whitmore, C. 1989. Conservation assessment of south west Peloponese, Greece for Caretta caretta. Wildlife & Tourism Management Unit. Contracted by Societas Europaea Herpetologica (SEH), in conjunction with MEDASSET and funded by The Greek Animal Welfare Fund (GAWF). 27 pages. Whitmore, C., R. Jesu & P. Reynolds 1991. Sardinia - an assessment of beaches for loggerhead turtle nesting. Funded by the DG XIB/EC (contract No. 6610(90)4313) and MEDASSET. 56 pages.


Ten years of marine turtle conservation in the Mediterranean (1989-1999).  

Author: L. Venizelos In: Moiser, A., A. Folley, B. Brost (Compilers). Proceedings of the 20th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Con...

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