Tourists put turtles on danger list
Photo: Christopher Goss
'holiday trippers are helping to kill off rare turtles'.
Turtle watching is a favourite holiday treat for thousands of Greek Island tourists who buy tickets for sea trips to turtle nesting beaches. Unfortunately the holiday trippers are playing an unwitting part in killing off some of the world's rarest turtles. Conservation experts have for many years issued strong warnings against commercial exploitation of the creatures.
Popular tourist turtle-viewing trips on islands such as Zante threaten the future of the endangered caretta caretta, or Mediterranean loggerhead sea turtle.
But the warnings have gone unheeded as the number of tourist sea trips in glass-bottomed boats has soared.
The problem is that turtles are very shy creatures and can easily be frightened off, especially during the turtle nesting season.
The soft sand beaches where they choose to lay their eggs have become increasingly occupied by holiday tourists and the eggs laying season unfortunately coincides with the summer holidays.
Turtles usually lay their eggs at night so the beaches are not a great problem. But while they wait for nightfall they circle offshore — an ideal target for pleasure boats viewing trips.
Pleasure boats are moored along the coastline of the islet of Marathonisi on Zante, a major turtle nesting site, from 10am to 6pm every day as tourist arrive to get a glimpse of the rare creatures.
Camera touting tourists appear unaware of the distress they cause among the rare turtles as boats chase them through the water. It means that many turtles simply swim away and fail to lay eggs at all.
Those turtles that do land can find traditional nesting grounds bulldozed away to make room for sun beds and beach facilities.
Eggs can lie undisturbed under the sand but when hatchlings do emerge, mostly at night, they can get confused by the bright lights of nearby clubs and tavernas and head inland instead of out to sea.
It's not known how many turtles are lost each year but conservationist point to the steeply declining numbers of this already rare species that is not on the world endangered list.
Unfortunately the Greek government has been under fire for years from the European Commission for its failure to protect the turtles and their nesting sites from commercial exploitation.
They have even faced legal action through the European courts for their dismal failure to protect them or their beach nesting sites from commercial exploitation.