SOCIETY

Sea turtle deaths up in 2011; foreign volunteer numbers down

Four-hundred-and-seventy turtles washed up on Greek shores in 2011, up from 450 the previous year, according to Greek sea turtle protection society Archelon, which cites illegal fishing practices and injuries from speed boat propellers as the main cause of death among the turtle population.

Meanwhile, according to the group’s annual report, more Greeks offered their time to Archelon’s efforts last year, with the number of volunteers working for the environmental protection group reaching 468, though organizers have seen a marked drop in non-Greek volunteers, «most likely because of the negative image of Greece abroad,» according to Theoni Karkoulia, the head of Archelon’s volunteer service.

“Our goal is to intensify efforts to attract volunteers from Greece and abroad so that we can increase the services we offer,» Archelon director Theodoros Benos-Palmer said.

Archelon’s rescue center in the southern Athenian suburb of Glyfada treated more than 50 injured and sick turtles in 2011, the report added, conducting 20 operations and 34 releases, while the biggest number of deaths was noted in the Ionian island of Zakynthos.

The rise in turtle deaths may be linked to an increase in their population, according to Pavlos Tsaros, the head of Archelon’s rescue team.

The non-governmental organization also warned against the unchecked development of facilities for beach-goers on sea turtles’ traditional nesting sites along the coasts of the Peloponnese and Crete, such as bars that stay open at night, casting light on the beach and playing loud music, and the prevalence of umbrellas and sun loungers.

“There is a saying: ‘don’t wait for the rain to stop to start dancing.’ The people of Archelon dance all year round,» said board member Nikos Raisis. «They are doing great work.”

To find out more about Archelon, log on to www.archelon.gr or call 210.894.4444.