Stay tuned for an inspiring series of five salty podcast episodes on seaturtles and their conservation across the Mediterranean Sea.
Why is it so important to protect turtles? What threats are they facing and what do we do to tackle them within the project “Conservation of Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean Region”? Are we optimistic about the future?
All these and many more questions will be answered in our podcast series…available soon on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts and Spreaker platforms.read more
The journey of a Caretta caretta turtle across the Mediterranean reminds us that sea turtles know no borders. If we want to efficiently protect the species we must collaborate. NGOs, environmental conventions, scientists ,conservationists and local communities across different Mediterranean countries must join their forces forces for sea turtle conservation.
This is what we do, for the last four years, in the framework of this project. We are a truly Pan-Mediterranean alliance, with our hearts devoted to sea turtles.
Enjoy the video created by Notre Grand Bleu in Tunisia.read more
With the aim to reinforce sea turtles stranding monitoring, UNEP/MAP-SPA/RAC organised a sub-regional training on marine turtle rescue and networking at the Lampedusa Turtle Rescue Centre from 15 to 19 November 2021, as part of the Conservation of Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean Region project, funded by MAVA Foundation.
This regional training included lectures and practical sessions on onboard first aid, sampling techniques, turtle rescue surgery, clinical treatments and necropsy.
Marine turtle specialists and veterinarians from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Lebanon benefited from the workshops by Prof. Antonio Di Bello (Bari University, Italy), Prof Paolo Casale (Pisa University, Italy), Erica Marchiori (Padova University, Italy), Mariluz Parga (SUBMON, Spain) and Dr Jribi Imed (Sfax University, Tunisia).
The event was organized in close collaboration with Ms Daniela Freggi (Lampedusa Rescue Center, Italy).read more
An online meeting was held on 4 November 2021 among Albanian experts and officials, within the framework of the project “Conservation of marine turtles in the Mediterranean Region”.
Important sea turtle populations feed and overwinter in Albania’s coastal waters, while in 2018 the first officially confirmed hatched nest was recorded.
The aim of the online meeting was to discuss the setup of an official network of experts and officials that will monitor Albania’s coasts for injured or dead sea turtles, also known as strandings. The meeting is part of project activities in Albania, which are being implemented by MEDASSET in collaboration with Dr. Enerit Sacdanaku, with funding from the MAVA Foundation.
The meeting started with opening remarks from Lobna Ben Nakhla of the UN Barcelona Convention’s Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA) who noted that the development of stranding networks and harmonised data collection is a priority under the “Action Plan for the Conservation of Mediterranean Marine Turtles” and welcomed Albania’s efforts towards this goal.
Elvana Ramaj of the Ministry of Tourism & Environment during her welcome speech, reaffirmed Albania’s commitment to marine turtle conservation and expressed support towards the importance of establishing a stranding network of officials and experts to monitor sea turtle strandings in the country.
Marine turtle expert Dr. Flegra Bentivegna (National Research Council, Italy) who is advising the process, presented the cases of Malta, Italy, Tunisia and France and provided guiding principles for a successful stranding network: officialisation, coordination, national coverage, harmonised protocols, shared and public data, trained and certified membership, well-equipped rehabilitation centers.
Albanian sea turtle expert, Dr. Enerit Sacdanaku presented the current monitoring in Albania and stressed the importance of establishing a National Sea Turtle Stranding Monitoring Network, which will regularly collect data on dead or injured turtles found along the Albanian coast.
The proposal on a National Sea Turtle Stranding Monitoring Network was presented in detail and discussed among the meeting participants, which included Ermal Halim of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment, Antonela Cobanaj and Migena Bici of the National Agency for Protected Areas and representatives of the Regional Agencies of Protected Areas: Shkodra (Agim Dardha), Lezhe, Durrës (Dude Kau, Halim Ҫelmanaj); Vlorë (Artion Seferi, Tatjana Mehillaj, Endora Celohoxhaj); Fier (Ervin Allushi). Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Bego of the University of Tirana, Assoc. Prof. Dr Hajdar Kicaj and Bledar Pepa of the University of Vlora, representatives of the UNDP (Labrina Bedinaj) and of NGOs “Social Education & Environment Protection”(Simo Ribaj), “Herpetofauna Albanian Society” (Enea Dama), Institute of Nature Conservation in Albania (Genti Kromidha) and “Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania” (Sabina Cano) participated in the discussions and provided valuable input and suggestions, while reaffirming their support towards the creation of an official network.
The meeting agreed to further deliberate on the proposal which provides the structure, procedures, requirements, roles and protocols to be followed, as well as an action plan for materializing the network in the long-term. Once the consultation process is completed the proposal will be delivered to the Ministry of Tourism and Environment. MEDASSET called on all interested individuals and organizations to communicate their willingness to support and participate in the network.
MEDASSET and Dr. Sacdanaku warmly thanked all participants and especially the Ministry of Tourism and Environment, the National Agency for Protected Areas and the representatives of the Regional Agencies of Protected Areas for their keen interest and collaboration .
Notes to Editors:
 The project “Conservation of Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean Region”(2017-2022( is funded by the MAVA Foundation and is implemented in thirteen Mediterranean countries (Greece, Turkey, Albania, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Lebanon, Cyprus, Tunisia, Italy, Spain and France) by nine direct partners: ARCHELON , DEKAMER, National Marine Park of Zakynthos , MEDASSET, MedPAN, SPA/RAC , WWF Greece, WWF North Africa, WWF Turkey.
 Three of the seven species of sea turtles are found in the Mediterranean. The loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green turtles (Chelonia mydas) nest here, and the huge leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) is an occasional visitor. All species are included in the IUCN Red list of threatened species. Sea turtles are cold-blooded, air breathing, egg laying reptiles that spend their mysterious lives at sea but return each summer to the same area they were born to deposit their eggs in the sand. They take 20-30 years to mature and may live up to 100 years. Despite having travelled the world's seas since the age of the Dinosaurs, their survival is threatened due to coastal development, pollution, collision with vessels, fisheries and climate change. Each summer sea turtles lay their eggs on sandy beaches in the east and south regions of the Mediterranean basin (mainly Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, etc).
 With roots back to 1983, MEDASSET was founded in 1988 in the UK and in 1993 in Greece. It is an international NGO registered as a not-for profit organisation in Greece. MEDASSET plays an active role in the study and conservation of sea turtles and their habitats throughout the Mediterranean, through scientific research, environmental education, advocacy and awareness raising. The organisation is a partner to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP) and a Permanent Observer-Member to the Bern Convention, Council of Europe, since 1988.
MEDASSET has implemented the “Rapid Assessment Survey of important marine turtle and monk seal habitats in the coastal area of Albania” in 2005 and the project “Monitoring and Conservation of Important Sea Turtle Feeding Grounds in the Patok Area of Albania” during 2008-2010. Subsequently, in 2011, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, MEDASSET prepared “Management Recommendations for Drini Bay” and the “Action Plan for the Conservation of Sea Turtles and their Habitats in Albania” which was adopted by the Minister of Environment in 2012.read more
As the last sea turtle nests are about to hatch along the Mediterranean coastline, a tribute to those working on the beaches seems only fair. Hatchlings do have their guardian angels in those who carry out beach patrols, monitor nests, run conservation programs, coordinate volunteers, report violations and do so much more to safeguard the beaches and ensure uninterrupted nesting activity. Huge credit is due to all those who strive to protect sea turtles – an emblematic species for Mediterranean marine biodiversity.
But one can’t act alone! It’s a tricky and challenging process to protect a highly migratory species like turtles. Synergies and partnerships are necessary to achieve efficient conservation across the Mediterranean Sea.
Nine direct partners and numerous local partners, ranging from NGOs, conventions and public authorities spanning 12 countries, collaborate for the Conservation of Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean Region project. Thanks to funding from the MAVA Foundation, project teams could work on the beaches, in scientific labs, in policymaking meetings – “fighting” for turtles.
Summers are different for “turtle people” and 2021 was no different.
In Albania, MEDASSET initiated training for protected area staff to manage sporadic nesting and a drone survey to study the sea turtle population in the Drin Bay. In the northern Aegean, a field survey was undertaken, covering a major part of the Greek coastline to assess beach suitability for sporadic nesting. Data analysis will enhance our knowledge of sea turtle marine distributions and evaluate sea turtle nesting habitat and activity, and the possible implications of climate change.
Greece hosts approximately 45%  of Caretta caretta sea turtle nests in the Mediterranean. Apart from the monitoring and nest protection in the country’s major nesting habitats, ARCHELON conducted extensive fieldwork in the Amvrakikos Bay (in the Ionian Sea, northwestern Greece), with the aim to increase scientific knowledge on sea turtle distribution, movements and migration routes. ARCHELON uses the rodeo technique to capture turtles, which are tagged, satellite tracked and released directly back into the sea. As a result of the 2021 fieldwork efforts, 5 adult male turtles were satellite tracked, while 299 turtles in total were captured, out of which 81 were neophyte (i.e., were never spotted before in the habitat).
When the WWF’s Blue Panda boat anchored in Zakynthos, a web lab on tourism put the spotlight on the consequences of mass tourism and ways to minimize its impact on the island.
Although official nest numbers for 2021 are pending, Zakynthos National Marine Park has confirmed that 2021 is looking like a good year for turtles. More than 1,300 nests were confirmed in Zakynthos, well above the mean nest number of the rookery for the last 20 years. In addition, in the coming months the marine park will finalize and present the task of processing management data and of designing an adaptive management tool.
Zakynthos is also the location of another important nesting beach, Sekania. During the 2021 nesting season, Sekania hosted 589 loggerhead nests out of 1,319 nests in total (based on ARCHELON and National Marine Park monitoring), confirming its pivotal role.
Also in the summer, WWF Greece implemented a series of low-impact conservation activities on Sekania beach to preserve the nesting area. These included fire prevention measures, systematic wardening and predation monitoring (seagulls and ghost crabs).
Moving eastwards, Turkey hosts important nesting sites for both Loggerhead and Green turtles. Akyatan is a wildlife development area under protection status since 1987. The lagoon, forest and surrounding sand dunes, which cover an area of about 11,300 hectares, host a great variety of fauna and flora. Green turtles are famous summer visitors to the beach. A field survey was carried out by WWF Turkey, during the marine turtle nesting season, from June 1 to September 15, in collaboration with the regional directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. It identified 434 nests (24 loggerhead and 410 green turtle nests). Cages against jackal predation were placed to protect the nests.
This summer, vegetation mapping on Akyatan beach by also commenced. Showing the relationship between Green turtle nest use and vegetation will support local government in its spatial planning.
In Dalyan, Iztuzu beach is a popular spot for loggerhead turtles. DEKAMER, which monitors the area, has been operating the Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center since 2009. As DEKAMER’s founder and director, Dr Yakup Kaska, said: “2021 was a difficult year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, 150 DEKAMER staff and volunteers, who over 150 nights covered around 15 km per night, worked hard to patrol the beach around the clock day and night, covering 337,500 km in total. They recorded and protected nearly 1,000 nests. Additionally, we were able to look after 50 injured turtles and conducted autopsies on 100 stranded turtles.”
Heading south, in Tunisia, the Specially Protected Areas Regional Activity Centre (SPA/RAC) of the UN Environment Programme/Mediterranean Action Plan, succeeded to establish national networks composed by well - trained scientists, MPAs managers and volunteers in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Lebanon. Indeed, national nesting and stranding programmes have been implemented through the application of harmonized protocols, in line with guidelines developed under the Barcelona Convention. The project has also been an opportunity to promote applied research and more than 250 data loggers have been deployed to monitor the beach temperature. Additionally 500 samples have been extracted from adult and juvenile sea turtles to determine their origin and genetic structure.
In Kuriat island, the main Caretta caretta nesting area in Tunisia, nesting activity of sea turtles is in continuous progression, thanks to the well-coordinated efforts of its co-management unit (APAL, NGB).This year the number of nests has almost doubled compared to 2015, rising from 20 to 44 nests.
The SeaTuMed sub-project, a communication programme, launched by WWF North Africa, brought together more than 15 NGOs to protect sea turtles and engage people in their conservation through targeted awareness-raising activities.
Some would ask, why the fuss about sea turtles?
Why do so many people strive to protect this species? Sea turtles have it all: they are umbrella, indicator and flagship species. This means that by protecting sea turtles we are protecting a huge number of other species and habitats at the same time, some of which may not be as emblematic or grab the public’s concern and attention to the same extent. And, if sea turtles aren’t doing well, that means something is not going well on the beach or at sea, or both. Their status can serve as a wakeup call. Not to mention that they also help maintain a balance in marine food webs, while circulating nutrients from water to land, and preserve the ecosystem balance by maintaining healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs that provide key habitats for other species.
It makes sense to be a turtle “hero” after all.
 Casale P, Broderick AC, Camiñas JA, Cardona L and others (2018), Mediterranean sea turtles: current knowledge and priorities for conservation and research. Endang Species Res 36:229-267. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00901, from the supplementary table S9 http://www.int-res.com/articles/suppl/n036p229_supp.pdf
Editors: Conservation of Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean Region Partners