The beautiful sandy beaches that stretch from Patara to Fethiye and beyond are some of Turkey’s most important nesting areas for the endangered Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta).
They are also some of the most popular beaches for tourists who visit them in their hundreds of thousands each season.
But the continued pressure on those beaches to meet the demands of tourism is reducing the share of sand that sea turtles can lay their eggs in year on year.
Plight of sea turtles highlighted
Last year a report issued by the Bern Convention and MEDASSET on the impacts of development on turtle nesting highlighted the impact that development was having on the species.
The Mediterranean beaches of Fethiye and Patara are very important for nesting sea turtles. They are also an integral part of the regions’ tourism industry.
Sea turtles and conservation experts who visited in July 2015 visited Patara beach and the stretch of Fethiye’s coastline that includes Çalış, Çalış-Çiftlik, Yanıklar, Karataş and Akgöl.
They concluded that two very important stretches of Turkey’s Mediterranean coastline, Fethiye and Patara, were seeing increasing tourist development and that could mean that sea turtles’ days are numbered.
What happened last summer?
The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats subsequently adopted two recommendations urging Turkey to prevent habitat destruction and ensure improved levels of management for Çalış beach to Karataş in Fethiye and Patara. Both of these are Specially Protected Areas (SPAs).
2016: a new opportunity
As we head into the 2016 tourism season we asked MEDASSET, one of the authors of the report, for an update on the report and what if anything was being done to alleviate the situation highlighted by the 2015 report. MEDASSET founder, Lily Venizelos told us:
We call upon the responsible authorities to take urgent action to implement the Recommendations before the start of the 2016 tourism season, which coincides with the sea turtle nesting season.
The implementation of the Recommendations in will ensure the long-term protection of sea turtle populations and the preservation of important Mediterranean natural habitats, as well as sustainable and high quality tourism development for the benefit of local communities.
The main need is to remind all those involved that steps must be taken to implement the Bern Convention Recommendations on Patara and all of Fethiye’s sea turtle beaches.
We want to stress positively and proactively that there is still time to improve the situation but that time is now, while there is still time to reverse the situation.
The implementation of the recommended measures and improved management of the beaches will not only be good for Fethiye’s turtles, but also for the community, businesses and visitors. By turning Fethiye’s beaches into biodiverse, clean, organised and quality destinations, there will be space for both the protected sea turtles and beach users to enjoy.”
What’s going to happen?
Although it is impossible to know what will happen in the short-term, the many projects actively drawing attention to the need to protect nesting beaches and increase understanding of how quality destinations, good management and cautious development, maybe sea turtles and tourism can eventually coexist.