FIFTEEN signposts have been put up along Valencia’s beaches to raise awareness about turtles arriving here and what to do if you see one.
As part of the European project Life Medturtles Valencia City Council is working with the Marine Zoology Unit of the city’s university to improve the conservation status of the population of these reptiles. The project monitors turtle populations in the European Union and adjacent areas and brings together institutions from Italy, Albania, Tunisia, Turkey and Spain.
The Turtle Alert signposts can be found on the northern beaches (2 on the beaches of Rafalell and Vistabella and 3 on the beaches of Cabañal and Malvarrosa) and 10 on the southern beaches (1 on the beach of Arbol del Perro, 6 on the beaches of Devesa Norte, 1 on Devesa Sur and 2 on the beach of El Perellonet). The campaign, a pioneer in Spain, is promoted by the University of Valencia, the Regional Government and the NGO Xaloc throughout the Valencia region.
Valencia’s Deputy Mayor, Sergi Campillo, said: “The signs call for public cooperation in the event of detecting a sea turtle trail or seeing a turtle laying on the beach, indicating what to do and what not to do and, above all, emphasising the need to call 112 to report the situation and to set up the operation for the protection and management of the turtle and the possible nest.”
What to do if you find a turtle
- Call the emergency number 112 immediately
- Keep crowds away
- Keep out of the turtle’s line of vision
- Touch the turtle
- Get close to the turtle
- Take photos using flash
- Walk on the turtle’s trail left in the sand
- Shine torchlight on the turtle
Sea turtles play a crucial role in the world’s marine ecosystems. In the European Union, loggerhead and green turtles are strictly protected species. Campillo explained: “During their life cycle, sea turtles use a large area of the Mediterranean to nest, mate, grow, feed and overwinter, facing numerous dangers, such as nest destruction, marine pollution, accidental capture by fishing boats and entanglement in ghost nets.” (fishing nets that have been abandoned, lost or discarded at sea).
For all these reasons, the effective conservation of such migratory species requires action to be taken throughout their range of activity zones. Since 2001, live turtle nesting events have been recorded on Spanish Mediterranean beaches, but since 2014 turtles have returned every year and the numbers are on the rise, “possibly partly due to the effect of climate change”, said Campillo.
Among the action included in the Life Medturtles project are: protecting nests and campaigning for their rapid detection; reducing the impact of fishing on these reptile species; increasing the rehabilitation capacity of sea turtles by improving recovery centres and networks; increasing public awareness through websites and social networks, education kits, public events, conferences, a citizen science application for mobile phones, as well as improving cooperation between beneficiary entities, other conservation organisations and competent authorities in the conservation of these endangered species.