The loggerhead turtle: friend or foe? | WWF

The loggerhead turtle: friend or foe?

Posted on 06 June 2016
Caretta caretta Loggerhead turtle swimming in open sea. Zákinthos, Lagana Bay, Greece
© WWF / Michel GUNTHER
Zakynthos island, in the Ionian Sea, is one of the most famous destinations for mass tourism in Europe. At the same time it hosts the most important nesting grounds for the Caretta caretta, the loggerhead turtle in the Mediterranean Sea.

During the 1980’s and 1990’s the bay of Laganas experienced a massive tourism expansion. The place chosen for centuries by the turtles to lay their eggs was lost to permanent umbrellas and noisy bars and restaurants.

NGOs were mobilized, the European Union initiated a legal case that led to a conviction of Greece at the European Court of Justice. The situation was heated. The turtle, strictly protected under EU law, was perceived by some as a foe and an enemy of local development.

More than twenty years later and the creation of the National Park protecting the nesting beaches, WWF-Greece asked people’s perceptions about the loggerhead turtle.

1. Antonis Synetos, Resident and Businessman, Zakynthos’ National Marine Park.

 “The sea turtle represents a friendly and familiar symbol for the Zakynthian community. The challenge for a different tourism model, where locals and tourists respect and protect the sea turtle remains. But, the opportunity that is being given for the development of different but dynamic entrepreneurship must not be missed. ” 

2. Lily Venizelos, Founder and President of Medasset 

“Nowhere are the socio-economic aspects of sea turtle conservation better illustrated than in the 33 years efforts to establish and implement conservation legislation for the premier loggerhead rookery in Laganas Bay, on the Mediterranean island of Zakynthos. In Laganas thousand of tourists spend money to observe turtles.”

3. Aristotelis Martinis, Assistant Professor of the Department of Environmental Technologies, TEI of Ionian Islands

"95% of  local community and tourists declared that the protection of the turtle is important for the island as it contributes heavily to the local economy." (Survey by Technologist Environment Department of the TEI Ionian Islands)

4. Panagiota Thodorou, Conservation Officer at ARCHELON

“At first, part of the local community was against the creation of Zakynthos’ National Marine Park, nowadays it is clear to everybody that the protection of the habitat can provide a long-term income for the local community through sustainable use of their resources.“

5. Zakynthos’ National Marine Park representative (NMPZ)

“Even if the pressure exerted on nesting beaches and sea turtles remain important, a big step has been made and the local society is progressively adopting sea turtles and the National Marine Park as a part of its cultural and socio-economic heritage.” 

6. Charikleia Minotou, WWF-Greece, Zakynthos Program

“The purchase of the land surrounding Sekania beach by WWF ensured a unique habitat for the endangered loggerhead turtles, as Sekania is one of the most important nesting beaches worldwide. The turtle is an opportunity for Zakynthos to change its touristic profile and to offer perspectives of an alternative and eco-friendly development.”

7. Maria Lougaris, Manager of Castelli Hotel, NMPZ’s area

“Turtles are our best friends. Our hotel is located in the area of the National Marine Park of Zakynthos. It is a unique added experience to our guests’ holidays. They wake up very early in the morning to meet the Caretta Caretta on the beach, with great care and respect, without disturbing them!“
Caretta caretta Loggerhead turtle swimming in open sea. Zákinthos, Lagana Bay, Greece
© WWF / Michel GUNTHER Enlarge