Turtles

Turtles

Two species of Marine Turtle, the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) breed regularly on the beaches around the coast of Cyprus. Both were far more abundant in the past but their numbers have fallen in recent years.
Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) are also occasionally found off the west coast of Cyprus. However no nesting activity of this species has been noted in Cyprus or in the Mediterranean.

Exploitation of turtles in the Mediterranean, from the beginning until about the middle of last century decimated turtle populations. Very large numbers of turtles were shipped from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe where there was a large demand for turtle soup.

More recently mans' encroachment on turtle nesting habitats in the Mediterranean is now threatening turtles in this sea.

The intensive use of beaches, for tourism and recreational purposes, deprives them of their nesting grounds. Some turtles drown or are killed when caught in fishermen's nets or on long-lines. Turtles and especially the Green turtles are, as a result, on the verge of extinction in the Mediterranean.

Both the Green and the Loggerhead turtles have been declared endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (I.U.C.N.) Both species are now protected under the Council of Europe's Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention).

An Action Plan for their conservation has also been approved by Mediterranean States within UNEP's Mediterranean Action Plan (Barcelona Convention).

In 1978, a project was launched by the Fisheries Department to protect the turtles. It includes a seasonal station and a hatchery at Lara on the Western Coast of the island. The Cyprus Government finances the project.

Late in 1980, it received World Wildlife Fund support, as an International Union for the Conservation of Nature/World Wildlife Fund Project, for three years.

It is currently receiving assistance from the E.U. as a MEDSPA Project.

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