CoCoNet Press Release January 2015
SEA TURTLES AND MARINE PROTECTED AREAS
Protection of sea turtles was a flourishing environmental movement along the Mediterranean coast during the 1980’s. There are three principal species of sea turtles found in the Mediterranean Sea: loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), green sea turte (Chelonia mydas), and leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). The loggerhead and green sea turtles are listed as Endangered, while the leatherback is listed as Vulnerable in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. These are popular species in terms of marine conservation in places like Zakynthos Island in Greece, Iztuzu Beach – Dalyan in Turkey and other parts of the Mediterranean Sea which are known as turtle nesting sites. During the 1980’s, hotels and recreational facilities were constructed all along the Mediterranean coast, and as a consequence, many nesting beaches of turtles were damaged. Actually, the populations of sea turtles in the Mediterranean Sea have been decreasing steadily in the last decades. Incidental catch by fishing gears, marine pollution as well as disturbance and damage to nesting beaches are the main causes of the decline.
Sea turtles are known to feed on jellyfish. We know that jellyfish blooms occur in the Mediterranean coasts when marine turtle populations are declining. Jellyfish blooms affect tourism as people avoid those areas affected by blooms. In the long run, protecting sea turtles will benefit coastal people socioeconomically at the same time.
As turtles migrate throughout the Mediterranean, regardless of political boundaries, it is important to implement a regional plan, incorporating all efforts made at national levels. It has been decided that establishing and properly managing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is the most important solution to protect sea turtles and their nesting beaches. The Mediterranean countries within the framework of the Mediterranean Action Plan, adopted the Action Plan for the Conservation of Mediterranean Marine Turtles in 1989. Currently, Regional Activity Center for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA) is preparing an update of the Action Plan.
Through the CoCoNet project, we urge all riparian countries of the Mediterranean Sea to protect these flag species by establishing and networking MPAs.