Environmental Policy News

IUCN Calls for Greater Protection of Mediterranean Sea Turtle Nesting Sites

The first comprehensive overview of Mediterranean Sea turtles offers the latest information available on nesting beach sites together with the main areas of foraging and overwintering, as well as the current situation in protected areas.                                  

pexels lucas meneses 4712739As the summer season progresses, new sea turtle nesting events continue to be reported across the Mediterranean. To support effective conservation measures, the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation together with the IUCN Marine Turtles Specialists Group and the Spanish Herpetological Society have compiled the most relevant knowledge on marine turtles in the Mediterranean, followed by a set of 10 recommendations aimed at managers, policy-makers, as well as the public general, for all to contribute to the conservation of these exceptional animals.

Among the  top conservation priorities and recommendations, this report highlights the need for greater assessment and protection of nesting activity in all countries – especially in Libya – as well as establishing year-round protection of key feeding and wintering grounds, developing seasonal protection schemes through main migratory corridors, educating fishing communities on how to handle sea turtles on-board and mitigating sea turtle bycatch. Moreover, this regional overview includes a map of key areas for the two present reproductive species (loggerhead and green turtles) showing positive and negative trends, areas of concentration, data on juveniles, rescue centers distribution, evolution of conservation measures and other marine turtle species.

Strengthening the network of sea turtle conservation actors 

Rescue centers play an important role for sea turtle conservation by developing fundamental research on these species and raising awareness on their threats among the general public. Almost 40 rescue centers and first-aid facilities located throughout the Mediterranean specialize in recovering and providing veterinary treatment to injured sea turtles. However, their distribution is very uneven, with a lack of centers in some North African and Eastern countries, as opposed to other countries who own several of them. 

“Protection of nesting sites requires continuous attention and effort. Thus, a solid network of stakeholders, including the general public, professionals of the sea and fishers, conservationists, researchers and decision-makers (both on local and national level) must continue to join efforts to ensure that Mediterranean marine turtles survive and thrive into the future”, stresses Juan Antonio Camiñas member of the IUCN Marine Turtles Specialists Group and chairperson of the Spanish Herpetological Society.

“Marine traffic pollution to coastal development, disturbance in nesting sites and climate change, are some of the biggest threats affecting Mediterranean Sea turtles. We need to reinforce existing conservation actions and increase efforts to reduce these threats”, explains Catherine Numa from IUCN Mediterranean Species Programme

“Involving fishers and establishing a permanent cooperation with them for the conservation of sea turtles is key to increase the chances of sea turtle’s survival and reduce their entanglement in fishing gears. Furthermore, enhancing the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas at sea and in countries with presence of important nesting sites can assist large trans-boundary efforts for sea turtles, adds María del Mar Otero from IUCN Mediterranean Marine Programme.

pexels jolo diaz 3661926The Mediterranean, a biodiversity hotspot for marine turtles

Out of the seven sea turtles that can be found in the Mediterranean Sea, only two nests in the region, e.g. loggerheads (Caretta caretta) and the Endangered green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Additionally, the Critically Endangered softshell turtle, (Trionyx triunguis) can be encountered in coastal and estuarine waters of Southern Turkey and the Levantine Sea.

Loggerheads have stable nesting areas ranging from the Central Mediterranean to the Levantine coast in the East, with most of the estimated 8,000 egg clutches laid annually. In the last years, new scattered nesting sites are being discovered. In contrast, beaches for green turtle.es are concentrated in the easternmost part of the Mediterranean - mostly in Cyprus and Turkey- with fewer sites in Egypt, Israel and Lebanon, as well as some Greek Islands in the Cretan Sea with more than 2,200 egg clutches laid each year.

Sporadic events of sea turtle nesting on Western Mediterranean beaches are indeed an extraordinary and exciting fact that draws attention to the need for effective conservation actions as well as social involvement to avoid disturbance.  

The publication is available here.

Report funded by Mava Foundation through the action plans “Reconciling fisheries and biodiversity” and “Protecting sea turtle nesting sites”. 

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