The Cyprus fisheries department on Wednesday reminded the public of the importance of protecting the island’s turtles as more are expected to visit beaches in the coming months, warning that hefty fines will be imposed on anyone that disturbs the creatures.

The island hosts two out of seven species of sea turtles in the world – the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas).

“Both are spectacular and emblematic species and their presence in our areas is part of their life cycle, both for feeding, mating and spawning,” it said.

“On the occasion of the recent complaints about incidents of harassment of sea turtles in coastal tourist areas, we inform the public, and especially the operators/owners of tourist coastal boats and users of water sports and speed boats, that… the intentional harassment of fauna species of community interest is prohibited,” it said.

Harassment includes offering/providing food to lure sea turtles to take photos or swim in close proximity to them, it added.

The department of fisheries warned that anyone who violates the provisions of the law is guilty of an offence and, if convicted, is liable to imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to €17,000 or both.

“Let the animals decide how close they want you to be. If you see signs of disturbance (such as sudden movements), then you should stop your approach and move away,” the department said.