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Reduction of mortality of Caretta caretta in the Greek seas (Caretta)
Date du début: 1 mai 2002, Date de fin: 30 avr. 2006 PROJET  TERMINÉ 

Background The loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) spends most of its life at sea and only comes onto land to nest. The turtles' most important egg-laying beaches in the Mediterranean are in Greece. Up until now, the most significant attempts to protect the species in Greece (including the three previous LIFE-Nature programmes in Crete and the Peloponnese) have focused chiefly on protecting turtles and their nests from threats such as habitat destruction, dune erosion, animal predation and disorientation of new-born turtles due to light pollution. Problems created by the interaction between sea turtles and fishing activity (intentional killing, accidents, prolonged submergence, drowning in nets, etc) now need to be tackled as a top priority for the protection of the species. Objectives The aim of this project was to reduce intentional and accidental injuries and deaths among loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) due to their capture in fishermen's nets. This was to be achieved by two parallel means: reducing both intentional killing/injury and fatal accidents. In order to reduce intentional killing/injury, an intensive programme of cooperation was to be implemented with fishermen's associations, aiming to raise fishermen's awareness. To reduce fatal incidents, the existing rehabilitation system (rescue centre and sea turtle rescue network) would be improved and complemented with the opening of two first aid centres in areas where most captures are recorded (‘hot spots’). A further proposed innovative action involved the assessment of the behaviour of sea turtles upon release from the rehabilitation centre, while emphasis would also be put on the exchange of experience on sea turtle rehabilitation with other countries. Results The project has been successfully implemented and has had direct environmental benefits, such as the reduction of sea turtle strandings (either deaths or injuries) due to accidental or purposeful actions on the part of fishermen. To achieve this, the project has successfully upgraded the rescue facilities in Glyfada, which received 163 wounded turtles – mostly Caretta caretta - of which 46.6% were released. It also established two other first aid stations, one in Crete and one at Amvrakikos. The project team has enhanced the follow-up of released and captured turtles with the aid of satellite tracking and tagging. The impacts of these activities appear encouraging although they are difficult to quantify accurately at this stage, because improved reporting may constitute a bias in the data thus far collected. Public awareness activities have been extensive: contacts with fishermen were conducted throughout the coastal areas of Greece, especially at the 'hot spots' where strandings occur often. During the project, the attitudes of 285 fishermen were documented, and 25 Memoranda of Understanding were signed. Public awareness activities including school kits, radio advertisements, printed material, a mobile exhibition and events reached over 100 000 people. The draft National Action Plan for the species has been drafted and circulated to the relevant authorities. The Action Plan has a five year time-span, and it addresses threats to sea turtles at sea and on land, recommending strategies for mitigation and setting priorities for certain actions and/or areas considered critical for the survival of sea turtle populations in Greece. Legislation will be enhanced if the National Action Plan is adopted, as it would be a useful tool for the state and its agents (port police) to improve the protection of Caretta caretta. However, it remains to be seen if the relevant authorities will adopt the Action Plan. The continued commitment of the project beneficiary, the NGO ARCHELON, should be a guarantee that the actions of the project will be continued in the future. The After-LIFE Conservation Plan includes a continuation of all the activities established by the LIFE project. In nearly all cases, funding for the follow-up has already been confirmed. The actions to be continued include: sea turtle rehabilitation; adoption of a National Action Plan; maintenance of the Sea Turtle Stranding Network; use of GIS technology to identify 'red alert' instances; evaluation of turtle behaviour using satellite telemetry and tagging; and intensified activities at ‘hot spots’ in Crete, Western Greece, Messiniakos, Argolikos, Rhodes, and Kavala. Use of the mobile exhibition will continue, as will the public awareness and environmental education activities. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section). This project has been selected as one of the 26 "Best" LIFE Nature projects in 2007-2008.


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