ABOUT PROJECT

 

 

 

 

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IN THE MEDITERRANEAN, CONSERVATION PROGRAMS ON SEA TURTLES STARTED AT THE END OF THE 1970S AND GREATLY EXPANDED AND IMPROVED SINCE THEN.

With more and more scientific knowledge on occurrence, demography, behaviour and threats becoming available, the structure and distribution of the populations, the connections between different countries and their relative importance for turtle conservation are more and more evident. Although the general international perspective of turtle conservation is obvious, nowadays indication are available of the potential value of international cooperation on specific actions. This project aims to improve connections and synergism on key conservation aspects among 5 key countries.

THE CONSERVATION CONTEXT OF THE PROJECT IS OUTLINED BELOW PER EACH COUNTRY

ALBANIA

MAIN THREATS: fishing gear
At foraging areas

The main threat to sea turtles in Albania in both Adriatic and Ionian is related to incidental capture in fishing gear. Two sea turtle species are affected: Caretta caretta and Chelonia mydas (although with lower numbers). Trawlers, gill-nets and long-lines are found to have an impact on turtles. Detailed estimates, however the available information suggests that several hundreds of turtles are incidentally caught annually in Albania. This project aims to reach fishing gears from three Albanian ports to reduce this impact on sea turtles. Moreover, fishermen are found to not be very friendly toward turtles sometimes, resulting in additional harm/mortality. The general awareness campaign carried out by the project is expected to help on reducing such negative interactions between turtles and fishers.

At nesting areas

The current lack of awareness of local communities and tourists about the conservation aspects of turtle nesting activity represents a threat for turtle nests, in terms of damage from human presence and tourism-related activities. Additional specific threats have not been investigated so far. A general increase of public awareness regarding the importance of sea turtle nests is expected to reduce part of the harmful activities and to increase the number of nests reported and documented, that can then be properly protected by the project. More information on specific threats is expected to be collected and to help conservation and management planning.

ITALY

MAIN THREATS: fishing gear

The marine areas surrounding Italy are frequented by high numbers of turtles, especially the Adriatic and Ionian, and Italy has one of the largest fishing fleets in the Mediterranean, with several types of fishing gear used. This represents a major threat to sea turtles on a regional scale, with a rough estimation of 24,000 captures per year or more. Two fishing gears are particularly problematic, trawlers and set nest, which capture high numbers of turtles in the Italian waters of the Adriatic Sea. The project has identified two specific areas where a high interaction is reported and where project Actions will be implemented One is the Gulf of Manfredonia (in the South Adriatic), a recently identified sea turtle foraging ground where turtles are caught in high numbers (>1700/yr) by local trawlers, which is probably the cause of the many strandings in the area. The second area is in the North Adriatic where thousands of turtles per year are captured by trawlers and set nets. The project aims to reduce these threats in these areas.

SPAIN

MAIN THREATS: fishing gears

The Mediterranean coast of Spain is heavily affected by tourism and coastal development. Thus, it should be considered as a potential threat to the sporadic nesting events and included in regional management plans to prevent its impact on the ongoing colonization of the beaches by the loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta). Fisheries are considered primary threats for marine turtles in the Spanish Mediterranean. The main fishing gears affecting loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta*) in Spanish Mediterranean waters include the suite of surface longline targeting albacore (Thunnus alalunga), bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) and swordfish (Xyphias gladius). However, turtle bycatch rates in these fleets has been reduced to figures near zero, particularly in the waters of the Valencia region due to the use of a mesopelagic longline targeting swordfish introduced in Spain in 2006. Báez et al. (2019) describe this significant reduction in longline bycatch of loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) in the Western Mediterranean over the period 2000-2016 (SCRS/P/2018/32), particularly after 2006, probably due to changes in the surface longline fishing strategy. Concerning other fishing gears, Doménech et al. (2015; UVEG team) provided bycatch estimates in bottom trawls targeting commercial multi species through interviews to fishermen, and also few studies refers to incidence of artisanal gears near a marine protected area (Gata Cape MPA).

TUNISIA

MAIN THREATS: fishing gears

Main threats to sea turtles in Tunisia are related to fisheries. In the gulf of Gabès, a large fishing fleet using many kinds of fishing gears operates during different seasons. More than ten thousand turtles are captured annually by trawlers, longlines and static nets, also indicating a high turtle density in Tunisian water and mainly in the gulf of Gabès. In terms of mortality, the highest rates were registered by gillnet and bottom longlines. In bottom longlines, hooks are close to the bottom and the turtles captured are smaller; therefore they might not be able to reach the surface to breath and eventually die by asphyxia. The high mortality rates associated with gillnets (70%) may be a result of the long soak time. During the studies conducted in the gulf of Gabès, the use of circlehooks and the change of baits show promising results. The threats related to fishing activities will be directly addressed during the implementation of the project by the introduction of a novel methods for reduction of sea turtle bycatch in static nets (gillnets and trammel nets; through application of visual deterrents) and longlines (through different hooks), reduction of bycatch through education of fishermen and adoption of best practices for post-release mortality reduction and by informing fishers on hot-spot areas to avoid.

TUNISIA

MAIN THREATS: fishing gears

Main threats to sea turtles in Tunisia are related to fisheries. In the gulf of Gabès, a large fishing fleet using many kinds of fishing gears operates during different seasons. More than ten thousand turtles are captured annually by trawlers, longlines and static nets, also indicating a high turtle density in Tunisian water and mainly in the gulf of Gabès. In terms of mortality, the highest rates were registered by gillnet and bottom longlines. In bottom longlines, hooks are close to the bottom and the turtles captured are smaller; therefore they might not be able to reach the surface to breath and eventually die by asphyxia. The high mortality rates associated with gillnets (70%) may be a result of the long soak time. During the studies conducted in the gulf of Gabès, the use of circlehooks and the change of baits show promising results. The threats related to fishing activities will be directly addressed during the implementation of the project by the introduction of a novel methods for reduction of sea turtle bycatch in static nets (gillnets and trammel nets; through application of visual deterrents) and longlines (through different hooks), reduction of bycatch through education of fishermen and adoption of best practices for post-release mortality reduction and by informing fishers on hot-spot areas to avoid.

Grant Agreement LIFE18 NAT/IT/000103. This website has been produced with the assistance of LIFE financial instrument of the European Union. The information and views expressed on this website are the sole responsibility of LIFE Euroturtle project partners and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

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