There have been two events held recently, where the focus has been on sea turtles.
One is very large and international, the other very small and local to Fethiye but
both are essential if these amazing and ancient marine creatures are to survive.
At one event there were young children, for whom environmental awareness is just
beginning and at the other, three extraordinary elders, who have tirelessly
campaigned and battled for decades against the destruction of sea turtles
and the habitats in which they struggle to survive.
Between them they are doing all they can to tell the whole world, as much as
their local communities that sea turtles are not merely tourism ‘symbols’,
they are a vital part of the planets biodiversity and that looking after their
habitats is something in which we can all play a part.
Sea Turtles, the Mediterranean and Muğla’s beaches
The Mediterranean waters and beaches of the Gulf of Fethiye and nearby
Iztuzu beach in Dalyan, are significant for sea turtles and play a vital role
in their survival.
During the next few months Caretta caretta (Loggerhead sea turtles)
and to a lesser extent Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), will visit the
coastal waters around Fethiye and Dalyan to breed.
Shortly afterwards the females will come ashore onto the beaches,
where they will lay their eggs.
Living together on the same planet
Sea turtles have been living on planet earth for more than 100 million years
and only for a small fraction of that time have they had to share it with humans.
Moreover, it has only been for the last few decades that sea turtles have been sharing
their habitats with humans, their rubbish and all the other stuff that comes with mass tourism.
When litter is a killer
One of the many problems facing sea turtles around the world is litter and a lack of
knowledge about how vulnerable sea turtles and their habitats have become and
Fethiye is no exception.
And litter can be fatal for sea turtles at all stages of their (hopefully) long lives.
Sea turtles can live for a 100 years but a careless action by a human can have
Here are two examples:
A human throws away a plastic cup on the beach. One night a tiny hatchling,
heading for the sea ends up in the cup. It can’t escape, so it dies.
Adult turtles are known to mistake plastic bags floating in the sea for their
favourite food, jellyfish, and suffer a slow painful death.
While no would do this deliberately, this is what happens.
Learning about litter and sea turtles
In about a month from now, female Loggerhead sea turtles will begin
to make their night time visits to Fethiye’s beaches to lay their eggs.
Aware of this, a local group called Sea Shore Savers organised an
event last weekend. On Saturday 18th April they painted tee shirts
with a turtle emblem.
These had been generously donated by Carole and Guven of
On the Sunday morning at 11am around 30 children and their families
met on Çalış Beach where they had a short talk by Pinar and Okyay Tirli
from TEMA about the effect of litter on the sea turtles and the environment.
How long did you say?
The children had a quiz on how long various types of garbage take
to decompose. Did you know, for example, that a crisp packet takes
1000 years? If you think that’s a long time, a glass bottle and a
styrofoam cup takes 1 million plus years. Yes, really…
The children did really well at guessing!
Naming a sea turtle
The youngsters then met a ‘sea turtle’ which was actually made from
recycled waste, including yoghourt pots, plastic containers (found earlier
on Karataş beach), egg boxes and newspapers.
Asked to chose a name for it, they wrote their ideas on pieces of paper and
Arzu Erkimen from the Ingiliz Evi in Günlükbaşı picked one from a pot.
The winner was Florrie Killon, who had chosen the name ‘Lizzie Heart’
Eventually the sea turtle will go to live with TEMA.
Collecting garbage for sea turtles
The children spent 30 minutes collecting rubbish from the beach,
which included everything from cigarette butts, lighters, plastic bags
and bottles, bits of plastic and bottle tops as well as lots and lots of
fishing line. This rubbish will be sorted and cleaned before being used
to make a sculpture next week at Çalış Kids Club.
Everyone learnt a lot and had a great time and hopefully their message
about looking after our beach and sea so that the turtles can thrive will
The group plans to continue with their mission throughout the summer
months and will have other beach clearing events.
They will be using the rubbish they find for various art projects.
35th International Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation Symposium
Meanwhile, over at the Dalaman Hilton Resort and Spa in Sarıgerme
there was a very different ‘turtle’ event, on a much bigger scale.
Organised by this year’s ISTS president, Professor Yakup Kaska
of Pamukkale University, the conference brought together more than 850
turtle academics, NGO workers and volunteers from 80 countries,
including Tanzania, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Australia, Costa Rica,
USA and Peru.
One of the many highlights of the annual event was the presence of two
doyennes of sea turtle and environmental conservation:
Lilly Venizelos, from MEDASSET and June Haimoff.
June invited her old friend and ally, David Bellamy, arguably one of the
most dynamic and controversial environmental campaigners of his generation.
ISTS35: a first for Turkey
In a busy schedule of discussions, debates and other events, the most
recent and dynamic research on all aspects of sea turtle, freshwater and
land turtle biology and conservation was discussed.
The 35th International Sea Turtle Symposium is the most important conference
of it’s kind in the world and as it is the first time it is being held in Turkey
it is a great honour and privilege for the country.
It was also an opportunity for two hundred Turkish academics to get together,
as well as officials from important nesting regions like Mersin and dignitaries
from Ortaca, Dalaman and Muğla, to share information on how important
the protection and conservation of sea turtles is to the country.
A visit to İztuzu beach
One beach that the delegates are hoping to visit while at the conference
is İztuzu in Dalyan. This beach has the regions only rehabilitation centre for injured
or sick sea turtles. DEKAMER is also the inspiration of Yakup Kaska.
The beach is also the home of Kaptan June’s Sea Turtle Foundation.
Bringing Biology and Social Science together
A social science based workshop, the first of its kind for ISTS,
was organised by Fethiye based journalist and writer, Jane Akatay.
With travel sponsorship provided by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism,
she invited Dr Davina Stanford, a tourism expert from Leeds Beckett University
to discuss the importance of how best to communicate environmental awareness
in sea turtle areas with tourists and local residents through the use of persuasive
communication, including the use of thought provoking signs and other media.
If you would like to learn more about turtles and tourism here is an information
packed short film: