Protecting marine turtles and their habitat

2009 News

2nd December 2009 – The following is an announcement from MEDASSET concerning its activity at the meeting of the standing committee of the Bern Convention.  We are extremely grateful to everybody at both MEDASSET and Terra Cypria for the support that they have given not only to Episkopi Turtlewatch but also to all turtle nesting areas in Cyprus and Turkey.

BERN CONVENTION, COUNCIL OF EUROPE: 23-23 NOVEMBER, 2009

Sea turtle conservation problems in Cyprus and Turkey

In celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention), the 29th Meeting of its Standing Committee was hosted in its signatory city Berne, in Switzerland, instead of its permanent seat at the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, France. Sea turtle conservation problems in Cyprus and Turkey were discussed.

Akamas Peninsula (Cyprus): The problems of green turtle nesting in Lara and of conservation throughout the Peninsula were first brought by MEDASSET to the Convention in 1996. A Case File remains open since 1997. The representative of Cyprus NGO Terra Cypria reported that in July 2009 the government officially proposed Akamas, currently a NATURA 2000 site, as a Site of Community Importance (SCI). However, the limited extent of the proposed area, 10.017 ha, of which 7000ha are already protected State Forest, is considered catastrophic by Terra Cypria. So far, no proposal for “Specially Protected Area” (SPA) has been made and the ban on isolated building construction was withdrawn, thus allowing construction in all Akamas natural areas. The declaration of the 7000ha of State Forest a NATURA 2000 site, in no way meets the Bern Convention Recommendation No. 63 (1997) to declare Akamas Peninsula a National Park which would include the hinterland as well as the very important sea turtle nesting beaches.  Limni, a major loggerhead nesting area, has also been declared a NATURA 2000 site. The proposed management plan for the area (not yet implemented) allows building within 60 metres of the shore and development is proceeding rapidly. MEDASSET supported Terra Cypria’s request to leave the File Case open. The Standing Committee decided not to close the File and asked the government of Cyprus to fully implement Recommendation No. 63 (1997), to provide maps of the proposed areas and to ensure that obligations under the Convention are fulfilled.

Kazanli (Turkey): The case of the run-off of highly toxic waste into the Mediterranean Sea was first brought to the Bern Convention by MEDASSET in 2001 and a Case File was opened by the Standing Committee in 2002 which was then ‘provisionally closed’ in 2004. Following MEDASSET’s presentation to the Committee in 2006 with alarming visual content from the polluted nesting beach, the Case File has remained on the Meeting’s Agenda. In 2009, referring to the 1.5 million tons of highly toxic solid waste covered with a plastic sheet sitting on this most important green turtle nesting beach, the Turkish Delegate confirmed that construction of the waste neutralisation facility is underway, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is being carried out for the waste storage site and that “all hazardous waste could be neutralised to a safer compound”. He stated that the Government would be inspecting the waste neutralisation facility on a regular basis and would be reporting to the Standing Committee. The entire procedure would take up to 10 years to complete at a cost of several million dollars. He added that research, nest monitoring and conservation continued in 2009 and that solutions to reduce and control erosion of the beach were being investigated. MEDASSET called upon the Turkish Government to keep reporting regularly to the Convention on all issues concerning Kazanli.

Fethiye (Turkey): A Complaint was submitted by MEDASSET in 2009 to the Secretariat of the Convention, concerning uncontrolled development to accommodate tourism at the Specially Protected loggerhead nesting beaches of Fethiye, including the destruction of a wetland. Although among the most important nesting beaches of the species in Turkey, nesting at Fethiye has dropped from 191 nests in 1995, to 58 in 2004. A short film produced for MEDASSET in Sept. 2009 featuring the pressures on nesting beaches to accommodate tourism, was shown to the Delegates. MEDASSET’s complaint will be discussed at the 30th Standing Committee Meeting in 2010.

Episkopi (Cyprus): MEDASSET in collaboration with Terra Cypria, brought to the attention of the Meeting an issue raised by the local NGO Episkopi TurtleWatch, concerning the deliberate killing of sea turtles in the British Sovereign Base (SBA) of Cyprus and the refusal of the current Chief Officer to commit to the introduction of a fishing exclusion area. The issue was briefly discussed between the two NGOs and the British Delegate. The NGOs are considering the submission of a Complaint to the Bern Convention’s Secretariat should there be no marked progress by the SBA before March 2010.

2nd November – Marine reserve area campaign gains momentum and we go international!!

Thank you for your support, in its various forms our petition now has around 1200 signatures and continues to grow. We have been liaising far and wide with other conservation bodies and interested parties on this one.  Without exception they have given our campaign their full support.  The issue has also featured twice in the Cyprus Mail thanks to Nathan Morley and Lucy Millett.  The bodies strongly backing our campaign include but are certainly not limited to the following:

MEDASSET (the Mediterranean association to save sea turtles)

The Marine Conservation Society

Terra Cypria

The UK Turtle Implementation Group

Care for the Wild International UK

The UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum

The Herpetological Conservation Trust

Limassol Young Greens

Dhekelia Turtlewatch

If you browse the online petition you will also see that individuals supporting us include David Godfrey of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, Dr Ian Bride of the Durrell Institute of conservation and Ecology and, distinguished marine biologist and Cyprus turtle expert Annette Broderick.  Many of the bodies supporting us have entered into correspondence with the Chief Officer, circulated petitions and approached the UK government and Members of the European Parliament on our behalf.  Like us they believe that the matter cannot be allowed to drift.  We regard it as essential that a firm commitment to establishing a protected area is given now and that a timetable is agreed to implement the actions (such as informing fishermen and the public) which are necessary for the protection to be effective.  The next meeting of the Bern Convention Standing Committee takes place 23rd- 26th November.  We have been assured by our various supporters that the matter will be raised in this high profile arena.

We are considering the most appropriate time to present our petition to the SBA.  Both the hand written version and the online version are continuing to attract new signatures.  The Limassol Young Greens are also circulating a version and MEDASSET has just assisted us in forwarding details of the situation to all CTurtle members so we expect the numbers to continue to rise.  We have again written to the Chief Officer (most recently 13th October)asking him , amongst other things, to specify exactly what issues stand in the way of implementing greater protection. He has not responded.

30 October- Raising Public Awareness thanks to Project AWARE and Melissa!

If now you visit Curium, Tunnel, Lemmings or Long Beach you will see that we have installed a number of large bilingual turtle information boards at each.  The boards were financed by our Project AWARE grant and are intended to educate beach users about the turtles in an interesting way and also to encourage more turtle friendly behaviour.  Project AWARE has also helped out by financing our leaflets and clean ups this year and will be featuring Turtlewatch on its web blog and in various publications.

Those of you who travel on Cyprus Airways between now and the end of December may also flick through the Sunjet magazine and find yourself looking at a few familiar faces.  Thanks to our member Melissa Reynolds Episkopi Turtlewatch is featured in a six page article.  We will be placing a pdf of the article on the website if you wish to read it.  Another article by Melissa will also be featured in a forthcoming edition of Sports Diver.

Finally Friday 23rd October was “Turtle day” for 4 and 5 year olds at the Episkopi Garrison Primary School.   As part of the proceedings Turtlewatch gave a presentation to the children some of whom were existing volunteers.  The day went well and we hope to involve the children in the spring cleanup campaign alongside the children of Episkopi Village Primary School who helped out last year.

End of Season report

This will be finalised and issued to all members following the November committee meeting.

23rd September – the end is nigh!!

Thank you for the support that you have given to Turtlewatch this season.   We carried out our last nest excavation of the year earlier today and we will as usual be issuing a full report of the year’s activities within the next few weeks.  In the meantime here is a summary of recent events and most importantly details of the end of season get together at which we hope we will see many of you. Please be aware that as a special treat you will not be required to clean the beach first!

Nest excavations and 2009 season results

Nest 18 - digging for gold!

Nest 18 - digging for gold!

Nest 18 proved to be small but good.  Of the 67 eggs originally laid 53 produced hatchlings that made their way safely to the sea.  Of the 53 there was one which was obviously a TV documentary star in the making – he waited around for us to excavate him (or her!) and then made a rather sprightly run to the sea!    This provided a fitting end to what has been a record breaking season for Episkopi Turtlewatch.  The year produced a record number of nests (17) and a record number of hatchlings (844).   Our previous high was in 2006 when we had 13 nests and 806 hatchlings.  Incidentally, we believe that both records are attributable to the same group of turtles.

For those of you wondering how we could excavate nest 18 when we only had 17 nests the answer lies with “nest 17”.   We actually discovered that this was a “dummy nest” which had a perfect chamber but no eggs – it is not unusual but it is not something we often see on our beaches.   The nest our walkers found at Avdimou also hatched during the season.  We are awaiting confirmation of its results from Jimmy Carroll of Pissouri Turtlewatch.

Episkopi Fete

Many thanks to those of you who helped out by donating raffle prizes, staffing the stall and signing our petition.   The triple D team of Di, David and Denis perfected a seamless mugging operation on the stand whilst Sam and  Tricia provided supreme back up services.  Altogether we raised €745 which is another record and will give us much needed finance to cover the costs of beach cleans and cages for next year when we will be adding at least one beach to our list.  It was a tremendous effort and we were further boosted by the fact that we collected in excess of 500 signatures from all parts of the Cyprus community for our petition to “call on the SBA authorities to take immediate action to halt the illegal killing of turtles in SBA waters”.  In fact we were only limited by the number of forms we had and time.  Not one person that we approached refused to sign and many are copying forms to circulate around their contacts.  Many people were unaware that the killings were taking place and expressed horror that they are escalating rather than diminishing.  The turtles will be in our waters until probably early December so we will continue to press for progress.  The number of dead so far is 25.  Additionally 15 have been washed ashore at Akrotiri (many probably from our waters).

End of season get together

This will take place on the evening of Saturday 3 October at the Sunshine Beach Taverna at Curium Beach.  Everybody (especially a new member) is welcome to join us.  It is always a nice chance to meet old and new friends.  We will be gathering at about 7pm and the meal will be a meze priced at €12 per person excluding drinks.  If you have small children there will also be an option to order for them off the menu and we will also arrange for a vegetarian option should you need it.  If you would like to attend please email or call Ruth Baker by 6 pm on Sunday 27 September.  Ruth’s email address is ruthbaker7@hotmail.com and her telephone number is 99 177318.

17th August 2009 – Hatchings hit the 50% mark whilst Episkopi and Akrotiri Turtles chill out near Tunnel Beach.

Occasionally our morning walkers spot last night's stragglers!

Occasionally our morning walkers spot last night's stragglers!

We are now approaching the half way mark with our nest hatchings.  Early results were a little disappointing with the average success rate only just over 50%. This was well below our norm although it should be noted that the results were badly skewed by the outcome of one nest on Lemmings.    The initial poor hatching pattern was also being mirrored by both Akrotiri and Dhekelia turtlewatches and so could have been due to events outside of our control.  Nonetheless we were sufficiently concerned to seek professional advice from the Lara project which advised us to monitor the outcome of the next few nests to see if there was any improvement before considering alterations to our programme.  We followed this advice and the most recent excavations are indicating much better outcomes of between 60% and 95%.  We hope that this trend will continue as the outcome of our last two excavations has already pushed overall success rates close to 60%.  To date 446 hatchlings have successfully made their way to the sea and we still have the possibility of another nest as turtles are still nesting across the island.

Ruth advises Frank that excavation is the best form of exercise!

Ruth advises Frank that excavation is the best form of exercise!

Outside of nesting and hatching we have also undertaken several other activities in support of our conservation work.   Thanks are due to Lemming’s chief kite surfing instructor, Ross Chapman, who kindly donated his services as a pilot and some fuel to Frank and Linda for an early morning flight.  The purpose was to assess the feasibility of conducting an aerial population survey of our turtles.  In an interesting 90 minutes circling Akrotiri and Episkopi Bays they were able to spot a large grouping of adult turtles and many more (mainly Green) juveniles.  Interestingly the adult turtles were all in a loose grouping offshore from the Tunnel and Zapalo harbour area indicating that Akrotiri and Episkopi turtles do like to hang out together.   The juveniles were more widely scattered but again were largely confined to the Kourion and Epsikopi Bay areas rather than being on the east side of the Akrotiri peninsula.  To conduct a formal survey of this nature would require a minimum three of three years data.  We have been advised that this is an excellent and non intrusive way of assessing population levels but we clearly need to undertake a cost benefit analysis before committing to such a project.

Our favourite site at an excavation - empty shells and no stragglers!

Our favourite sight at an excavation - empty shells and no stragglers!

During the first half of the month Ruth and Linda also delivered presentations about our turtles to the SBA Customs team.  The team has been very supportive of our efforts this year and their patrol efforts do appear to have impacted on the numbers of turtle deaths witnessed this year.  We have also had discussions with the SBA environment team about extending our activities to include Ladys Mile Beach in 2010.

1 August – Explosion of hatchings on Lemmings and Tunnel plus nest 18 during some rather exciting nest vigils!

Nest 18 - an oasis of sand in a sea of rock!

Nest 18 - an oasis of sand in a sea of rock!

Nests 2,3,4 and 5 all started hatching as expected on the 30th and the 31st.  Star of the show was nest 5 on Lemmings which produced 40 hatchlings in one night.  Well done Jayne and Chris for shepherding them and the several visitors who turned up to watch.  Hatching took place on Tunnel in a rather more stately fashion but was rather outshone on both evenings by a couple of adult ladies who came ashore several times on both

Back at turtle HQ exhaustion sets in amongst the staff!

Back at turtle HQ exhaustion sets in amongst the staff!

evenings to give the volunteers on vigil something of a treat.  One of them was successful the first night in producing nest 18 – somehow finding the only spot of sand in an area which was virtually all rock.  The second tried again unsuccessfully the following night but we hope it will be a case of third time lucky as she clearly felt quite unthreatened on the beach thanks to our volunteers following the guidelines supplied and resisting the urge to photograph her.  This is turning into a record season all round – just hope we can keep up with the paperwork!

30 July – Ruth ruthlessly tracks down nest 17 and nest 1 proves to be a winner!

Ruth and nest 17!

Ruth and nest 17!

Well our turtles are showing absolutely no signs of letting us having a rest just yet!  Just when we thought that we were a Green free zone this year one popped up on Lemmings on the 25th dug up half the beach and disappeared without leaving a nest.  We are hoping for a return any day now!  Meanwhile on the 27th our Avdimou turtle also came ashore to find a spot for her second nest.  She is a bit fussy and didn’t lay that time but she is certainly energetic!   29th July saw Ruth and Linda flogging up Tunnel at a rather scorching time of day to check on the nests that are due to hatch shortly.  There were no signs of activity as yet but virtue is its own reward and just as they were about to collapse at the cliff face Ruth spotted nest 17!

Nest one heads for the sea!

Nest one heads for the sea!

We rounded off the week with the excavation of nest 1 on Lemmings which began hatching ten days earlier.  This excavation was used for training purposes but others will be open to members to observe.  For a nest laid so early in the season the results were good.  There were 113 eggs of which 20 were infertile.  79 hatchlings actually made it to the sea unaided producing a 70% successful outcome.

25 July – Sweet sixteen!

Top that for a birthday present!

Top that for a birthday present!

Another week passes and another two nests arrive on the scene!  Well done to Oliver and Helen for an eagle eyed spot of nest 15 at Tunnel on July 18th.  Most of the track was in the shale and would have been extremely easy to miss.  Thanks go to Frank for his artistic signage next to the nest!  Prize for most innovative birthday present goes to Gill who arranged for nest number 16 to be laid on 25 July just in time to hatch for hubby Steve’s birthday in September.  No wonder she is looking smug!

17th July Nest 14 and “Hello Gran” from the Caris family!

The good news on the nesting front continues with the laying of Nest 14 on the east end of Tunnel Beach.  Well done to the Caris family who not only found this one but also spotted a difficult separate track further down the beach.  There was just the one nest but the second track was from a different turtle so fingers crossed we still have more to come!

Nest 14 with teams Caris and Stokes(or at least half of it)!

Nest 14 with teams Caris and Stokes(or at least half of it)!

A special endurance award goes to David for tracking down the egg chamber which was definitely not where team Stokes expected it to be!  Unfortunately there is also some bad news to report.  Later in the day the “Decompression” team at Tunnel brought ashore a dead juvenile Green turtle.  She looked as if she had been dead and drifting for a while and so is probably not one from our population.  Many thanks go to Frank for dealing with the data collection.  Unfortunately, this does now mean that for every nest that has been laid this season we have also found a dead turtle.

16th July – Number 13, lucky for some!!

Following a disastrous season in 2008 we are both delighted and relieved to report that 2009 is already a record breaking season for Episkopi Turtlewatch.  We now have 13 nests on our “traditional” beaches and one on Avdimou beach which we began walking part way through the season at the request of the SBA Environment Department.  Both were laid on 14th July and a big pat on the back goes to new member Mandy for her efforts at Avdimou!  This is our highest ever number and with a few weeks of the nesting season left there are still several turtles attempting to dig!  It was the first nest to be recorded at Avdimou for several years and supports our view that daily patrolling of  such busy beaches is the only way of ensuring that nests are identified and protected!

It's the record breaker! Nest 13

It's the record breaker! Nest 13

Nest 10 appeared on Tunnel Beach on 30th June and was quickly followed by nest 11 on 3rd July at the east end of Tunnel beach and nest 12 on 9th July at the east end of Lemmings.  Well done Andrea and Tricia!

Alongside this we also have other turtles attempting to nest on  Lemmings, Tunnel and Avdimou and one that insists on trying to dig up the car park at Curium!  We are also still waiting for a return visit from our Long Beach turtles!

Sadly we continue to observe and report incidences of illegal netting off our beaches.  Particularly serious was the netting off of Long and Officers Beaches spotted on the morning of 11th July.  It appears that these nets were left down overnight in little more than 2m of water.  It also seems likely that they were responsible for the death of two large but sub adult Green turtles which washed up at Avdimou later in the day.   Unfortunately the nets had been removed by the time the marine police boat arrived at the scene and so those responsible could not be identified.  We have now recorded 13 deaths to date this year.

If you believe that you have seen a net laid too close to shore within the SBA area(nets set in less than 5m of water or left out overnight are illegal) contact the JOC 25 963081- out of standard hours they will put you through to the duty customs officer, in normal working hours they will refer you to Akrotiri Customs office.   Please provide clear and concise information on the location of the net or fishing boat.  If you see the boat and can read its licence number please make a note of it and pass on this information also.

SPOTTING FISHING NETS

A few people have asked a very sensible question about how to identify a fishing net.  Sorry for not having spelt it out earlier! The easy ones have small brown/red floats about the size of a conker along their entire length which are visible at the surface.  The more difficult ones are simply attached to a large (usually improvised eg a large plastic container) float.  Often we only know about them because we see them being dropped or collected.  The only advice we can offer on them is to keep your eyes peeled for large plastic items/floats which appear stationary and which are not there every time you walk that beach.  On Tunnel for example look out for a large blue plastic container that appears from time to time at the east end of Tunnel not far from the rocks.  It is likely that it has a net attached to it!

29 June 2009 – Tunnel regains its crown and Long starts sneaking up on the rails!

Katherine with nest 8 on Long Beach

Katherine with nest 8 on Long Beach

Well done to Katherine for spotting nest 8 of the season and nest 2 for Long even though she wasn’t actually due to walk it!  The mother popped up on the 28th at the east end of the beach and gave a grateful Tony the chance to show off his newly honed skills in caging it.  Again it is nice to be able to say that she was able to nest undisturbed.   Unfortunately this wasn’t the case on Curium the following evening.  Unfortunately a group of customers frightened away a turtle which was attempting to dig her nest near Chris Blue Beach bar.  A waiter did telephone us to alert us to the problem but unfortunately although Ruth immediately went to the beach the

Crawl from disturbed loggerhead at Curium

Crawl from disturbed loggerhead at Curium

damage had already been done.  We hope that she will return to nest in the next day or so.   It was actually turtle action everywhere that night!  There were three separate crawls on Tunnel.  One of these appeared to be from our marathon runner who unfortunately again headed for the golf course and was unsuccessful in forming her egg chamber. She also then appears to have headed to Lemmings and the campsite behind the beach!  Meanwhile back on tunnel one of the other tracks was a simple crawl near the cliffs at the east with no digging.  Fortunately the third crawl provided us with nest 9 of the season although how she dug through those stones was a mystery both to Mike and Sandy who reported it and Linda who caged it!  We are now confident that at least six turtles are nesting with us this year and it is possible that there are one or two others.

26 June 2009 – Back to school courtesy of Andreas Demetropoulos and the Lara Project!

Best practice is never a static concept and turtle conservation is no exception to the rule.  Every

Tony, Ruth and Frank ready for action! Good luck Andreas!!

Tony, Ruth and Frank ready for action! Good luck Andreas!!

year the licence holders within the group undertake ‘hands on’ training with the experts.  This year Ruth and Frank earned their spurs whilst Tony, David and Linda built on experience gained in previous years.  The day involved gaining experience both in nest identification and (thanks to some lazy turtles who didn’t walk far enough up the beach) nest relocation.  Our troops were fortunate to be able to assist in locating several green and

Lara beach - relocating a nest to prevent sea innundation

Lara beach - relocating a nest to prevent sea innundation

loggerhead nests and to witness a large number of false crawls also.  Many thanks are due yet again to Andreas for his good humour and patience in sharing his wealth of knowledge with us.  Linda particularly enjoyed getting to drive the “official” car whilst David is still crowing over the nest that he spotted first.  For the record Andreas has around 200 nests so far this season but we are slowly narrowing the gap!!

24 June 2009 – Nests 5, 6 and 7 plus a marathon runner loose on Tunnel!

Our nesting season appears to be now truly up and running.  Lemmings beach obviously didn’t

Marathon lady - coming soon to a beach near you!

Marathon lady - coming soon to a beach near you!

like losing the spot light to Tunnel Beach and so retaliated quickly by producing nest 5 on the 16th and nest 6 on the 19th of June.  Sadly, it was also the setting for another death – our tenth of the season.  This was a near adult female green found on the 17th June which appears to have drowned after becoming entangled in a fishing net.

On a brighter note Long Beach has started to come to life at long last!  A large crawl was spotted on the 18th and subsequently followed by a nest on the 20th.  This was a cause for great celebration as there was no nesting on Long in 2008 due to several incidences of human disturbance.  In between the nesting activity all was not quiet on Curium and Tunnel either!  The 21st saw a mammoth crawl and digging effort on Tunnel which almost went as far as the golf course whilst on the 24th one of our ladies tried to dig up the car park at Curium.  Hopefully they will both make a return and take the less strenuous option of digging in the nice sand areas that they both turned their noses up at first time around!!

Celebrating the Queen’s Birthday in style 15 June 2009!

Nest 2 Tunnel Beach 11 June 2009

Nest 2 Tunnel Beach 11 June 2009

After a fairly slow start to the season our turtles seem to have got into party mode in time to celebrate the Queen’s “official” birthday.  Nest 2 appeared on the 11th followed by nests 3 and 4 (much) earlier today.  The party venue of choice at the moment appears to be Tunnel Beach.  However, there are signs that this is the “class of 2006″ returning in which case no beach is safe!

On a more sombre note we are still getting a significant number of adult deaths in the Episkopi and Akrotiri bays.  Some of these show indications of deliberate injury.  We are working closely with police and customs personnel to try to resolve this issue.  You can help by photographing and reporting any fishing boats putting out nets in water less than 5m deep.

More positively we have begun a series of two way seminars with local enforcement bodies.

Seminar with SBA Police 21st May 2009

Seminar with SBA Police 21st May 2009

These commenced with presentations to police officers and environmental wardens.  We were gratified to note that the seminars were supported by the most senior police officers.  Similar exchanges will be taking place with customs officials, lifeguards, local fishermen and kite surfers.  Thanks to funding provided by Project AWARE Foundation International we will shortly be distributing several thousand information leaflets to beach users and local businesses.  We shall also be erecting public information boards on all our beaches by mid July.

31 May 2009 Lemmings scores and Curium gets a try!

Lara with nest 1 of the season

Lara with nest 1 of the season

After a slow start to the first week of the walking rota our turtles suddenly sprang into weekend party mode.  Our Saturday morning walkers at Curium win the prize for spotting the first crawl of the season and Ruth gets a commendation for checking it out despite an Abba dabba do hangover!  No nest this time but hopefully she will be back soon (the turtle that is!).   Next to star was Lemmings beach on Sunday morning when new walker Lara spotted our first nest of the season.   No messing about for this Loggerhead – straight out of the water and straight back in pausing only to deposit the odd egg or eighty!  Let’s hope that this is the first of many this season.  Lara gets first option on which night she wants to nest sit.  The others will be up for grabs – expect it to start hatching mid July.

16th May Endangered Species Day

Ian offers the ladies some sound advice!

Ian offers the ladies some sound advice!

Episkopi Turtlewatch chose to celebrate ‘International Endangered Species Day’ in an apt manner by completing its annual beach clean programme.  A host of eager volunteers braved the hottest day of the year so far in order to prepare Paramali Beach for imminent turtle nesting season.  The efforts of the turtlewatch volunteers were supported by several members of the SBA police, the newly formed “Cyprus Women of Today” group, local kite surfers and Paramali Council.  Funding was supplied by Project AWARE Foundation International.

Thanks are also due to the muhktar of Paramali who surprised the participants with well deserved

What selfless sacrifice!

What selfless sacrifice!

refreshments afterthe hard work had been completed.  It was particularly gratifying to see that so many volunteers recognised the importance of building good community relations and bravely tucked in before heading off for a repeat performance at the St Ermogenis Taverna!  Is there no end to the sacrifices that our people make for Turtlewatch?

The participants removed approximately 200 sacks of rubbish which mainly consisted of smaller items such as plastic bags and bottles.  Turtles will often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them.  They are unable to digest them and as a result will often become artificially ‘full’ and die of starvation. Several large items of discarded furniture, plastic sheeting and agricultural debris were also removed from the beach.   Obstructions on a nesting beach cause problems both for adult turtles looking for nesting sites and for hatchlings which have to deplete their limited energy reserves trying to bypass them in order to get to the sea.

Frank eyes up a new table for Gail

Frank eyes up a new table for Gail

This is the third consecutive year that the group has undertaken a large scale clean up programme and, despite the fact that we collect a massive volume of rubbish each time, it is apparent that the state of our beaches is gradually improving.

Cyprus is one of a few remaining places in the Mediterranean where loggerhead and green turtles are able to nest.  Both species bring great benefit to the marine environment surrounding Cyprus and both are endangered.  People wishing to help conserve marine turtles should stay away from nesting beaches at night during the summer months and avoid littering them at any time.

2nd May 2009 – What a load of rubbish!

Just the start!

Just the start!

Saturday 2nd May witnessed the start of our annual beach clean-up campaign.  More than one hundred volunteers gave up their Bank Holiday weekend and, in the case of committee member Ruth Baker, her birthday, to spend Saturday morning collecting rubbish from Curium Beach.   Together we removed 500 sacks and several large items of debris including fishing nets and broken furniture.  The removal of several barrels of potentially toxic waste was also arranged.

Now is not the time to ring for a pizza!

Now is not the time to ring for a pizza!

The event enjoyed wide community support with representatives from St John Ambulance, the SBA police (PC 162 Stavros Prokopiou)and the SBA environment department (Alexia Perdiou) in attendance.  Episkopi council donated 200 of the rubbish sacks and arranged for the final disposal of all rubbish collected.  Particularly worthy of note was the presence of staff and pupils from Episkopi Primary School who in April had also arranged their own environmental awareness day at the beach.

One less problem for the turtles

One less problem for the turtles

Sadly for the second year in a row the ‘finds’ included a dead turtle.  This was the sixth to wash ashore in the Episkopi area so far this year and an unfortunate but timely reminder of exactly why we undertake such cleans.  Every year many turtles die as a result of entanglement in marine debris whilst others mistakenly ingest plastic items believing them to be jelly fish.  In 2008 twenty one turtle deaths were reported on Episkopi beaches compared with a previous high of just six.

Thankfully not hard at work!

Thankfully not hard at work!

By undertaking such high profile clean-ups we hope not only to remove the litter disfiguring the Curium and Episkopi Bay area but also to encourage people using the beach to dispose of their litter responsibly.

We would like to express our appreciation to everybody who gave their support to the clean and hope to see many of them at  Paramali Long Beach on 16th May.  We would also like to thank  Nathan Morley of CYBC and Nigel Rennie of BFBS Cyprus for helping to promote the event.

A few of you who lent a hand.

A few of you who lent a hand.

3 April 2009 Bravo Episkopi Primary School!

Pupils receive certificates of achievement from Turtlewatch and Project AWARE

Pupils receive certificates of achievement from Turtlewatch and Project AWARE

Well done and many thanks to the staff and pupils of Episkopi Primary School who showed their commitment to the marine environment by staging a series of public awareness raising events throughout the day at Curium Beach.  The activities included:

  • The presentation of environmental posters to the owners of the three beach tavernas at Curium. The colourful posters were designed and produced by the pupils and will be on public display throughout the summer;
  • Explaining to beach users why it is important to keep the beach and sea litter free. To assist with this the pupils produced their own bi-lingual information leaflet which Turtlewatch hopes to be able to make use of in its beach cleans;
  • A clean up of the sandy beach area surrounding the tavernas.
Episkopi Primary School hard at work!

Episkopi Primary School hard at work!

Representatives from the SBA Police, the SBA environment department and Turtlewatch also joined in the fun.   The children worked extremely hard and it was a great honour to present the school with certificates of achievement from both Episkopi Turtlewatch and from the international divers charity Project AWARE.

18th April 2009 Episkopi Spring Fete

A huge thank you to everybody who gave your time, raffle gifts and money to help make this a splendid start to Earth Week!

David wows Ruth with his new hairstyle and physique!

David wows Ruth with his new hairstyle and physique!

The event was one of our most successful ever in terms of raising both general public awareness and much needed funds ahead of the spring cleans.   The sterling efforts of Teresa and Trish in particular (and their rather special take on marine biology) were successful in recruiting 19 new families as volunteers.  Meanwhile Di excelled in raffle ticket sales and would probably have managed to sell either her Granny or Jim if the fete had closed just 10 minutes later.  Special mention must also be made of Ruth and Denis and their creative genius in displaying our new T shirts!  In fact we managed to raise €482.75 which is by far our largest ever total from a single event and means that we should be able to buy sufficient rubbish sacks and sets of gloves to match the mighty efforts of 2008.

Finally thanks our also due to the “St John’s Ambulance” Team which has volunteered to help us out at the Curium Beach clean and to “Cyprus Women of Today” who have made our 16 May clean their event of the month.