Divers and non divers of all ages just love turtles, they must be one of the most loved and admired creatures on earth. Diving in Cyprus we see many every year in the water and come across many nests all along the beaches of Cyprus.
However we also come across many crowded beaches where turtles are being pushed out, many beach obstacles for them to overcome, fishing nets drowning many every year, boats hitting turtles, ignorant human activity and with discarded waste also a major hazard it is a wonder how these magnificent marine animals manage to survive at all.
It is such a tradegy every time you hear of an injured or dead sea turtle. With only 1 in every 100 hatchlings surviving to adulthood and not all adults laying successful nests every year, it is always a massive loss to lose a mature adult. So what can we do, what can divers do to help protect our sea turtles around Cyprus and how can we help them to flourish in the future ?
First of all we should see ourselves as ambassadors of marine conservation, after all divers are a large group of knowledgeable people on what happens in the sea and on coastal areas. We should encourage peoples awareness of what can affect sea turtles in the nesting season. Divers can also get involved with local Green Party activities and local Turtle watch groups, we have even started our own Turtle Conservation Group in the area.
Litter, and plastic in particular, are major hazards to all marine life as we know. We must find ways to limit what ends up in our seas and oceans. Padi organise beach clean up days and tons of debris can be collected in a single day, so why can't local authorities be lobbied to act with the local community in a similar way. This would help by enhancing the locals knowledge of the issues and will help clean up the beaches to the benefit of tourism in general and not just for the turtle population. There should be large penalties for the pleasure boats and commercial ships that illegally dump waste into the sea without any thought for the damage they are causing. We know the boats do it, we see it on dive sites when it has reached the shore, this should be seen as a major crime and dealt with accordingly. anyone seeing or witnessing this should report it immediately to the local port authorities and marine police.
How can we stop fishing nets drowning scores of turtles every year ? What legislation is there and what changes could be made that will not damage the fishermens livelihood ? Do the nets have to be left out all night long, can they not be checked for struggling turtles who may be entangled ? This is an area that needs discussion and expert advise, but some solutions have to be found and quickly.
We also see humans getting very close to turtle nests, attending beach sanctuaries in too many numbers and forming lines as babies hatch and head for the sea. This large scale human interaction has to stop and it is only for humans self satisfaction with a selfie stick to boast to their friends, most have no care or awareness of a turtles welfare. Indeed some people have been photographed this year sitting on a turtle laying eggs, a totally unbelieveable thing to do !!
Our beaches should also have turtle nesting areas which are sunbed and obstacle free, watersports and other tourist businesses should have certain restrictions on popular nesting beaches. This is being implemented with some degree of progress but as always money and business seems to come first over wildlife conservation.
As divers and dive companies in Cyprus there is a lot we can and are currently doing. With bigger numbers and a bigger voice these points we have raised and many more issues to support the turtle population can be made. Please contact us for more details or contact http://cyprusgreens.org/