Protection of Nesting activity in Crete
After preliminary surveys
carried out in 1989, ARCHELON identified a significant
number of loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta
caretta) nests along some
of Crete's beaches. Since then, projects for the monitoring
of the reproductive activity, protection of nests, and
public awareness take place at three of the most important
nesting areas on the island, and in particular in Rethymno
and the bay of Chania along the north coastline, and in
the bay of Messara on the south. In recent years, about
21km of beach (12km in the area of Rethymno, 5km in the
bay of Chania, and 4km in the bay of Messara) are monitored
The nesting beaches of Crete
are subjected to strong pressure, primarily due to their
increased use for tourism and recreation. Beach umbrellas,
sunbeds, artificial lights, and vehicle use on the beach
are only some of the problems that sea turtles face.
Due to the human impacts and
natural threats, various protection measures are implemented
on all nests found within the nesting areas of Crete.
All nests found during the
morning surveys on the beach are checked for the suitability
of their location. If they are not believed to be threatened
by innundation or damage due to human activities (e.g. close
to umbrellas or sunbeds) they are left where they are and
a metal cage is placed above them. The cages identify the
location of each nest and protect them from accidental damage
by beach users. The sign they carry (in three languages:
Greek, English, and German) informs the public about the
purpose of the cages.
If a nest location is believed
to be unsuitable, the nest is relocated to a safer part of
the beach or within a natural hatchery. Hatcheries are fenced
beach plots with an expected high hatching success. These
are also used as a public awareness tool, since they attract
the attention of beach users.
During the hatching period,
the increased number of sources of artificial light on
the back of the beach disorients hatchlings. They are attracted
by the lights and head towards the land instead of the
sea. Efforts to gradually mitigate the problem of light
pollution include communication with local authorities
and local business operators in order to persuade them
to switch off the lights that cause disorientation. If
this is not possible and the effort is unsuccessful, ARCHELON
places light fences around the nests to prevent the hatchlings
from disorienting. The fences, with a height of around
20cm, are made of wooden or paper boards and are inserted
vertically into the sand along both sides and the back
of the nest, thus creating a "path" towards the sea. This
intervention significantly reduces the mortality of hatchlings
caused by light pollution.
Local community cooperation
A management plan exclusively
regarding the nesting beaches of Crete was formulated by
ARCHELON in 1997. It suggests practical solutions for the
conservation of the coastal zone and the sea turtles. The
management plan was designed to be applied at a low cost
while attempting to integrate sea turtle conservation and
the sustainable development of the local tourism industry.
Protected zones within development areas, such as Crete,
can only be sustained when the local communities incorporate
them to their development plans. Consequently, ARCHELON is
in close cooperation with all involved local authorities
and the tourism industry at a local and national level for
the implementation of the management plan.
Regular communication and
relations with all involved local authorities are crucial.
ARCHELON is informed by the local authorities and operates
as an advisor on activities that may have an impact on the
nesting beaches or the sea turtles (e.g. the use of heavy
machinery for cleaning beach sand).
In addition, ARCHELON promotes
the incorporation of sea turtles in Crete's tourism product
by demonstrating mutual benefits. Turtles are an indication
of a healthy natural environment that can be promoted at
a local and international level. ARCHELON's attempts to combat
important problems the sea turtles face, such as pollution
and coastal degradation, contribute towards sustaining a
high quality level of tourism.
Tourist agencies prove to
be an important ally for ARCHELON, since they have the ability
to provide information to their customers prior to and upon
arrival to the nesting areas. ARCHELON cooperates with an
increasing number of tourist agencies, such as TUI, TUI Nordic,
HOTELPLAN, and PURE CRETE.
cooperation with hotel chains such as GRECOTEL and GERANIOTIS
HOTEL is crucial. ARCHELON is an advisor to the Environmental
Department of GRECOTEL in issues such as coastal management.
Since 2000, all four hotels operated by GRECOTEL in Crete
implement management suggestions of ARCHELON relative to
the reproductive habitat of sea turtles. GERANIOTIS HOTEL
has offered land for ARCHELON's volunteer camping without
charge in Chania since 1995. This has had a positive contribution
to the successful operation of the project.
The aim of the Public Awareness
programme is to create mutual trust and cooperation between
ARCHELON, the local community, and businesses operating locally
in the tourism sector. ARCHELON operates three Information
Stations in Crete. These are located in the old harbour of
Chania, in the town of Rethymno, and in Matala. Every year,
about 100,000 visitors are informed at the Information Stations
and live presentations held in tourism venues. In all public
awareness activities, informational brochures are distributed
in several languages.
A First Aid and Environmental
Station operates since 1995 at Pagalohori of the Municipality
of Arkadi near Rethymno. The Station was established in the
context of the LIFE-Nature project for the reduction of the
mortality of sea turtles in the sea, and is situated in the
vicinity of the nesting beaches of Rethymno, one of the most
important loggerhead sea turtle nesting beaches in the Mediterranean