Sea turtles in Crete

A rare species facing the threat of extinction visits Crete every year the same season that tourists do. So, on May 30th this year (2015) the first nest was spotted by a local team of volunteers, ISKA, that ARCHELON works with, in Kolympari, Chania. Because ARCHELON is present in 3 areas in Crete, with the advent of the first nest, three more followed in Rethymnon on June 2nd, in Skaleta and Adelianos Kampos, and another one in Messara Gulf (Heraklion), Kommos on July 3rd.

Crete: TurtleSea turtles are not just simple visitors of Crete, they are ancient residents of that island and it is our moral duty and responsibility to respect them. With this belief, ARCHELON, by maintaining three volunteer teams in the three most important nest regions in Crete, informs and educates more that 20.000 people, both locals and tourists, and raises awareness regarding the threats that the sea turtle faces in the island and the measures to ensure its protection.

The excessive use of outdoor furniture that remains on the beach during the night leaves no space for the turtles to lay their eggs and the presence of heavy vehicles on the beaches not only alter the natural conditions and make nesting difficult, but they primarily annihilate the nests. These are the main problems that the Society needs to deal with in cooperation with local bodies, locals and tourists.

The removal of outdoor furniture on a vertical axis across the coastline every night and the cleaning of the beaches off nesting season (from mid October to the beginning of May) are some of the measures the Society proposes. They are feasible and they have already been implemented by tourism entrepreneurs in Crete. These measures are cost effective in the short as well as in the long run and they will outline a clever and environmentally friendly profile for the tourist sector as long as the administration of the region respects the environment so as to maintain the necessary quality for the continuation of tourism.

We should bear in mind that sea turtles choose the beaches of Crete for the same reasons tourists do: for the clean sandy beaches and warm waters. A recent example is the manual collection of garbage that the ARCHELON volunteer team carried out in the beaches of Rethymnon with the aim of preventing heavy vehicles, which ought to have completed the cleaning procedures before nesting season, from coming. The following day the first nests were identified in the same area.

From the above we reach the conclusion that the complete and sound administration and maintenance of the nesting beaches have a positive impact not only on the sea turtle species but also on local tourism.
Nevertheless, the sea turtle is a species that existed prior to man on this planet. It managed to survive through grave natural phenomena and climate changes and now it is trying to coexist with us. Let’s make this symbiosis work.

For further information on sea turtles you can visit ARCHELON’s Information Stations that will soon be in operation daily on the Venetian Port of Rethymnon, Old City of Chania and Matala.