Apart for the regular actively reproducting population of loggerhead sea turtles, Laganas bay in Zakynthos island, also hosts a number of resident turtles. These turtles are mainly mature males and juveniles. There is strong evidence that these turtles are not migratory but they reside and forage in Zakynthos all year round. "Achilles'' is one of these turtles, being an immature male who has been seen in the island every year at least since 2012. He is usually observed around Agios Sostis port actively foraging and interacting with other resident turtles. He can be recognized easily by the two old injuries that he has on his carapace.
A few weeks ago, he was observed having a fishing line and a hook attached to his left shoulder. While the hook did not pose any imminent threat to his life, unlike many other turtles who are found with shallowed hooks, it was important that it gets removed as it can have serious implications to his health later on. Thus, the next day together with Anna Lamaj, leader of ARCHELON Zakynthos project and with Giannis Potamitis of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos, we set out to find him in his usual spot. After encountering 3 other turtles, we finally found him foraging happily in the swallows. It was assessed that in order to remove the hook we had to take him ashore. With some quick movements, we grabbed him from his carapace and brought him to surface! Despite his moderate size, Achilles proved to be really fit and powerful but after a bit of struggling we managed to take him out of the water. It goes without saying that apart from cases like this, one should avoid physical contact with the turtles. We managed to remove the hook and Achilles returned back in the water, while the crowd that had been gathered, was cheering with enthusiasm.
Given Achilles' close affinity to Agios Sostis port and the fact that no commercial fishing is done is that shallow part of the bay, there is a great probability that the hook originates from some amateur fishing activity. We stress that amateur fishing is totally prohibited in the bay of Laganas while commercial fishing is strictly regulated.
The resident turtle population of Zakynthos is a great asset to the area from which, we can learn a lot scientifically and they are also an important source of income for the turtle spotting industry, especially at the end of the nesting season, when female turtles are gone. They should be treated with caution and respect, not touched and most importantly not fed!
for ARCHELON Zakynthos: Kostas Papafitsoros
Photos: @Kostas Papafitsoros Sea Turtle Photography, @thatladywhogavethesephotos
More photos of Achilles: http://goo.gl/rLplUb
Information: Anna Lamaj, Zakynthos Project Coordinator, tel.: +30 6940454976