For millions of years, loggerhead sea turtles have been emerging from the sea to lay their eggs on sandy beaches around the Mediterranean. Their eggs lie buried in the warm sand for almost two months before they finally hatch, and the baby sea turtles begin their famous and difficult journey to the sea. Those who make it will come back to breed on the exact same beach that they were born on, but not for two whole decades. How many of the turtles born this year will survive until then? And, in the meantime, what will happen to their beaches?
ARCHELON, a non-profit Association working to protect sea turtles and their habitats, has been active in Messinia since 1984. Every summer, researchers and volunteers record the nesting activity here, protect the nests and the turtles, and inform the visitors of the area about the habitat and our conservation efforts.
An important beach for the loggerheads is the wide sandy Romanos Beach, which hosts an average of 47 breeding sea turtles every year. Several of those turtles choose to lay their eggs at The Dunes Beach at Navarino Dunes, Costa Navarino.
“Our cooperation with Costa Navarino, who respects and cares deeply for the environment and the animals of the region, started as early as 2010, during the planning phase of the resorts, and today, they are a great example of sustainable tourism practices in a precious coastal environment”, says Costas Teneketzis, the ARCHELON researcher responsible for the project at Costa Navarino. The project covers The Dunes Beach and annually records the sea turtle population while protecting, monitoring and mapping nests using GPS technology. A detailed action plan ensures that eggs are not harmed and hatchlings are protected until they reach the sea. In fact, more than 300 nests have been protected and more than 20 thousand hatchlings have reached the sea safely in the past 12 years.
The nesting data for the last ten years show that the development of Costa Navarino has had no negative impact on the nesting habits of sea turtles on The Dunes Beach:
“The location of the buildings and the lights of the resort units are set up in a way that ensures they’re not directly visible from the beach, while a peripheral planting of selected shrubs acts as a natural light barrier, providing sufficient protection against artificial light. This is important as light pollution can discourage female sea turtles from nesting and even disorient the newborn hatchlings. Furthermore, the sunbeds on the beach are folded away after sunset, and the beach umbrellas are permanently fixed so as to leave vital free space for the sea turtles to nest” he adds.
Last summer, like every year, the sea turtle nests on The Dunes Beach were spotted, recorded, and protected. Immediately, all Costa Navarino guests were informed and asked to avoid visits to the beach during night time, so as not to disturb the animals on their nesting process.
Does it make a difference?
Thanks in large to the correct practices implemented by hotel management, today, we’re witnessing what we call “sporadic” appearance of individual sea turtle nests on many beaches in Messinia, while the overall number of nests shows a positive upward trend. Just a little further up the coast from Costa Navarino, in the protected area of Kyparissia Bay, a NATURA 2000 site, we find the largest reproductive population of the species in the whole of the Mediterranean. Over 3,700 nests were recorded there in 2022.
Sea turtles, recognized as a symbol of endangered wildlife on our planet, are a crucial part of Greece’s natural heritage. However, threats caused by humans such as unsustainable development, climate change, plastic pollution, and dangerous fishing gear causing accidental entanglement, continue to put at risk the survival of the protected species around the world. In a bid to inspire a change in the practices that harm the turtles, ARCHELON’s motto is: “Turtles and humans: We can all live together”.
Visit www.archelon.gr and find out more about the loggerheads, the sea turtle nesting beaches of Greece, and how to join the public awareness activities of ARCHELON on The Dunes Beach at Costa Navarino, as well as at the Information Kiosk in Kyparissia Bay.
Spread the message about how important marine life is and why we need to protect it.