Cyprus Mail

Saving turtles from fishermen’s nets

A pilot project is underway to protect turtles from being caught in fishermen’s nets, programme coordinator of the project for Cyprus Yianna Samuel said on Tuesday.

As part of a European initiative, ‘Life Euroturtles’, this summer a number of lights will be attached to net fisheries in the Latchi and Pyrgos area.

In 2016 a team of scientists at the University of Exeter discovered that attaching green Led lights to nets used by small-scale fishermen can reduce the number of green turtle deaths by 64 per cent as they avoid them.

The result, if it works as planned, will be a win-win situation.

“The turtles which are a bycatch will be saved, and the fisherman will have less damage to their nets, and the turtles will not eat the fish in the nets,” Samuel explained. “Turtles need to come up for air, so when they get entangled they usually die. And the fishermen won’t have to spend time trying to disentangle them and repair the nets.”

The cost of the project is not very high, as each lamp costs just €10 to €15 and for now, not a lot of them are needed. The lights used are small enough not to scare off sea life from whole areas, they can only see them close up.

The project is funded by the European Commission together with the fishery department of the government and the University of Cyprus’ oceanography centre as co-funding partners.

It includes six EU countries, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta and Slovenia.

The focus is on areas that are pivotal for the conservation of the two sea turtle species occurring in the EU and listed as priority species the Habitats Directive, the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas). In the EU, the loggerhead turtle has major nesting sites in Greece and Cyprus, and limited nesting in Italy. Most turtles from these sites remain in the eastern Mediterranean. In the EU, the green turtle only breeds in Cyprus, and its foraging grounds in EU waters are in Cyprus and Greece.

The activities of the Life Euroturtles project prioritise areas where conservation measures are considered important and urgent, and could make a difference for the sea turtle status at EU, national and local levels.

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