So far, and although it is still early in the season, we have found four nests on Mounda beach, two nests on the Koroni/Lefkas beach, four nests on Avythos and three nests on Megasamos. We have had eight false crawls on Mounda beach, which is high enough to suggest that we will either have more nests on Mounda soon, or otherwise the lights and sun beds on the beach at night are in fact affecting the nesting of the female turtles. This has been a slow season so far, which can happen because turtles do not always nest every year. But turtle activity is picking up since just last night we had two nests on Mounda.
On the conservation side of this project, apart from cleaning the beaches of rubbish and alerting tourists to turtle activity we often go snorkeling in the morning and late afternoon and monitor other marine life in the area.
While snorkeling during the past two weeks we have come upon turtles on multiple occasions. I have seen two females, untagged and still a bit small, which means that they are probably still too young to breed and nest. I have also come across three males, which can be told apart from the female by their long and thick tails.
I found one of the turtles (who we call Wendy because of a distinctive ‘W’ marking on her shell) while she was feeding. This was very interesting to watch– turtles eat rather slowly, with their eyes closed and seem to relish nosing about in all the sea grass and kelp on the reef. After she finished feeding and noticed me, I followed her for about half an hour, diving down to clean off her shell and swim with her until she was ready to be left alone and swam off.
The life that exists underwater here is very colorful with a lot of variety. We have come across starfish, sea urchins, Moray eels, a fire worm, an octopus, and many different varieties of fish, kelp, sea grass and algae. There is also a lot of coral and sea sponges, although there doesn’t seem to be much variety there. We have depictions and explanations of all of these in the Environmental Centre to explain to tourists, so it is great to snorkel and understand exactly what I’m telling them about since I’ve seen it!
There are some sad aspects to the calm and unhurried life of sea turtles–just the other day we got a call form a German tourist reporting a dead turtle on the beach of Sision. It was reported to be missing a flipper and have lacerations across its shell. We sent a team out to investigate that area, but there was no sign of the turtles or anything that could have caused it damage.
We hope that talking to fishermen, who usually cause the most harm to turtles, will reduce the problem of finding hurt or dead turtles. Sea turtles do not have any predators once they mature and so their danger of extinction has arisen from human exploitation and hunting. We have had to swim out and cut through fishing nets and drag them out of the water to prevent unsuspecting turtles coming to shore from harm.
We do have interactions with fishermen and try to get across the importance of their cooperation in the endeavor to protect the sea turtles native to this area, but usually it isn’t that simple. Enforcing the law that protects the beaches of this area and the life they sustain has never been an easy task and we can only hope to increase and improve our relations with fishermen and hotel owners in the area and reduce their negative impacts on the turtles.