The coastline of Turkey which is surrounded by the Mediterranean, Aegean, Marmara and Black Seas is 8,500 km in length (excluding islands).

The Turkish coast is very important for biodiversitey and supports over 3,000 plant and animal species.

Turkey’s national protected area system includes Marine and Coastal Protected Areas (MCPAs, illustrated in Fig.1 and 2). Sometimes these areas include both terrestrial and marine sites.

At present there are 31 MCPAs in Turkey.

The first protected area to be established was Dilek Peninsula National Park in 1966. In 1973, the Gelibolu Peninsula Historical National Park was founded. The Dilek Peninsula NP was enlarged to include the wetland of the nearby Menderes Delta in 1994.

Special Environmental Protected Areas (SEPA’s or SPA’s) were set after the Mediterranean Action Plan of the Barcelona Convention which focused on sea and coastal regions. Currently there are no MCPA’s on the Black Sea coast of Turkey.

  • Figure 1. Marine and coastal protected areas (MCPAs) of Turkey (from Savaş and Kıraç 2002).

“Sensitive Zones” have already been defined in some SPAs. These include Siren Rocks in the Foça SPA which protect caves used by the extremely endangered monk seals and Iztuzu Beach in Dalyan-Koycegiz SPA used by nesting turtles Caretta caretta.

The Turkish Mediterranean coasts are important nesting grounds of two species of sea turtles (C. caretta and Chelonia mydas) (figure 2).

There are also many other beaches along the Turkish coasts where these turtles nest but these have not been officially recognised.

  • Figure 2: Officially recognized nesting areas of two species of sea turtles (C. caretta and Chelonia mydas) along the Mediterranean coasts of Turkey (Whitmore et al. 1990).

Many stretches of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts had been designated as Natural Site Areas and are closed for development.

There are 1,273 Natural Site Areas selected (561 termed 1st degree), designated to protect areas of special beauty and those supporting exceptional flora and/or fauna.

This had proven a very efficient means for officially protecting the marine environment. Controls include imposing penalties for damage and misuse of the areas.

Among the total assigned Natural Site Areas, 58 are underwater locations. Five of these are in the Black Sea, five are in the Sea of Marmara, 25 in the Aegean and 23 in the Mediterranean.

These are mainly concerned with the protection of archaeological treasures, although recently some were established to protect monk seal breeding sites from potential disturbance caused by divers.

Unfortunately, a new law was recently passed which puts Natural Site Areas areas at risk. In the future all sites will be evaluated to see if they will remain as Natural Site Areas.