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Increased sample size provides novel insights into population structure of Mediterranean loggerhead sea turtles

Published in Publications

In the framework of the project "Conservation of Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean Region" (2017 -2022) scientifc research work has been carried out in several Mediterranean countries regarding loggerhead and green turtles.The paper "Increased sample size provides novel insights into population structure of Mediterranean loggerhead sea turtles" published in "Conservation Genetics Resources" Journal is an outcome of this project. Through robust scientific evidence we can lobby for better or news laws and recommendations and guide sea turtle conservation.

You may read the published paper below:


The project  has been funded by MAVA Foundation and implemented in 13 Mediterranean countries by: SPA/RAC, DEKAMER, ARCHELON, MedPAN, WWF Turkey, WWF Greece, WWF Tunisie and MEDASSET


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MAVA Commemorative Book

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Words cannot capture the contribution of MAVA Foundation to biodiversity conservation. Since 1994 the foundation has funded more than 1.500 projects, with grants exceeding 1.14 billion CHF and collaborated with more the 500 partners.

The Mediterranean Sea was very dear to Dr. Luc Hoffmann, the founder of MAVA Foundation. Through the years, numerous projects and partnerships aimed to protect biodiversity in the Mediterranean. This project was one of them.

We invite you to read the MAVA Commemorative Book to gain an insight on the history, vision, achievements, and the sense of belonging created by MAVA Foundation.

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Enhancing the protection and conservation of marine turtle nesting sites in the Mediterranean 2017-2022_Final Evaluation

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13 Mediterranean countries, 10 direct partners and numerous local partners, support from local communities, volunteers, scientists, conservationists and MPA managers. This is in a short glance, the MAVA Funded project “Conservation of Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean Region” (2017-2022).

This five year project had as an ultimate goal:

→ “By 2022, at least 50% of the nests on monitored beaches produced successful hatchlings, indicating favourable nesting conditions.”

To achieve this goal the partnership worked on a multi-level, decentralised approach and particularly: field monitoring and protection of nests across the Mediterranean, satellite tracking of loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green turtles, sporadic nesting monitoring, lobbying policy makers and establishing new National Action Plans for the conservation of sea turtles, raising awareness on sea turtle conservation and engaging local communities and the young generation.

Read our compact evaluation report  and find out how we protected Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean:


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Marine Turtles: Ambassadors of the Mediterranean

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On the occasion of the 7th Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles hosted in the city of Tetouan, Morocco, from October 18 – 21 2022, the need for effective conservation strategies for marine turtles to ensure a healthy Mediterranean was reaffirmed. Under the theme “Sea Turtle Conservation After the Pandemic”, the conference convened scientists, conservationists, NGOs, International and Regional Institutions, policy makers and pan-Mediterranean stakeholders, setting the pace for marine turtle conservation in the region, and beyond.  

Among the conference highlights was the evening event organised on the 19th October by the partners of the “Conservation of Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean Region” project, entitled “Marine Turtles: Ambassadors of the Mediterranean”. Welcoming remarks were provided by Professor Mustapha Aksissou, president of the 7th Mediterranean Conference on Marine Turtles, with strong statements and calls for effective management from Dimitris Margaritoulis (ARCHELON) and George Sampson (MEDASSET), and a charismatic recognition of the achievements of the project, the impactful actions of the MAVA Foundation, and ensuring MAVA’s legacy was delivered by Paule Gross.

Yakup Kaska (DEKAMER) and Lobna Ben Nakhla (SPA/RAC) highlighted the significant strides made by the project and called for an expansion of the project’s Partnership reiterating the need for collective marine turtle conservation strategies in the Mediterranean with a focus on strong partnerships, MPA management and climate change.

All parties declared their determined dedication and commitment continue efforts for a thriving marine turtle population in the Mediterranean, demonstrated through the signing of “Joint Call to Action for the Conservation of Marine Turtles in Mediterranean”.

The Joint Call to Action calls on governments, NGOs, Global International Organisations, Regional Instruments and Businesses, to join the project’s partnership in implementing immediate actions for the protection of marine turtles.

Upon conclusion the of the Project’s second Phase in 2022, the Partnership will now turn its attention to launching Phase III, continuing to advance science and knowledge, reducing local, national, and regional threats, and driving, advocating and supporting national and international legislation for the protection, management, and recovery of marine turtles within the Mediterranean.

See the link below for the signed Call to Action:

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Home Sweet Home

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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. 

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“Fighting” for Turtles! A Story of Conservation from the Mediterranean!

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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.

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Greece hosts approximately 45% [1] 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. 

ARCHELON PHOTO 1 with credits

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.

Awareness Rasing Activities WWF Tunisie

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.

[1] 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






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Conservation of Marine Turtle in the Mediterranean Region: A Gap Analysis by Alan Rees

Published in Publications

This publication is produced by SPA/RAC - UNEP/MAP in the context of the project "Conservation of Marine Turtles in the Mediterranean Region" funded by MAVA Foundation. The author of the publication is Alan F. Rees .

The purpose of this publication is to provide an overview of the existing sea turtle monitoring activities in the Mediterranean, to identify the gaps in conservation efforts and to provide solid recommendations on how these gaps could be filled. 


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