of habitats and management of resources"
Illustration by Stephen D. Nash/ Conservation International
stocks have been and still are, in some areas, heavily exploited.
Concentrating on the Mediterranean, which to some degree reflects
the global picture. About 4000 Loggerhead turtles are fished every
year in Tunisia. The catch in the Mediterranean is estimated to
be at least 6000-8000 animals per year.
Given the slow growth rate of these animals, which may take anything
from 10-20 years to mature, the picture is very disturbing indeed.
Current information on the loggerhead sea turtles shows these animals
breeding in only a few areas in the Mediterranean. The loggerheads
largest single nesting site known in the Mediterranean is in Zakynthos,
where at best estimates, about 600-800 turtles breed every year.
Even if we assume that they breed every 3 years this would make
a total of about 1800-2400 turtles.
Of course there are other nesting areas in Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus
perhaps tripling this number. Recent information has the Loggerhead
turtles also breeding in small numbers in Tunisia and in unknown,
(presumably not large) numbers in Libya and Egypt. A catch of 6000-8000
turtles per year, however, implies a much larger population than
what is now breeding in the Mediterranean. There is some evidence
that some may be breeding outside the Mediterranean on the West
African Coast, carrying out migrations into the Mediterranean as
indeed they do within the Mediterranean. Several turtles tagged
in Zakynthos were caught in Tunisia.
There is clear evidence that as recently as 20 to 30 years ago,
turtles used to nest on many more beaches in the Mediterranean.
Beaches which are no longer available to them, due to other activities
such as tourism, or sand extraction which renders them unsuitable
There are many questions unanswered. What is clear however, is that
the current recruitment into the population from breeding in the
Mediterranean is practically negligible compared to the number of
turtles killed in the sea each year, and deaths caused by fishing
nets. It is very likely that the present turtle catches depend on
a sizeable stock of older turtles that once bred in large numbers
on the Mediterranean shores. If this is the case then we can expect
a virtual collapse of the stocks in the very near future. This may
well be the case with the Green Turtle, a tiny population which
now lives in the East Mediterranean nesting only in a handful of
beaches in Cyprus and Turkey.
Extract from an article by Andreas Demetropoulos, Department of