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September 8, 2004
Conservation and Tourism at 'Loggerheads' - Zakynthos, Greece - Photo Essay

Photographs by Chris Johnson

The crew joined Archelon staff and volunteers Nicola Briggs, Silvia Moll, Victoria Shearman and Michaela Jancy at dawn to monitor Kalamaki beach in Laganas Bay, Zakynthos. Kalamaki is one of six beaches along a 5.5 kilometer strip used as a nesting site by the endangered Loggerhead sea turtle - Caretta caretta. A team of researchers start the day at sunrise. Victoria Shearman examines the beach at first light. There are teams monitoring the beaches throughout the day and night.

The team mark and record newly hatched nests, while newly laid nests are posted and monitored for incubation rates and hatchling success.

The team also triangulates the position of the nest in relation to the sea and the back of the beach.

Vehicles are banned from the nesting beaches at all times. The researchers and Odyssey crew watch a garbage truck drive along the waters edge toward a group of hatchlings.

This hatchling was lucky to survive. The depression at the top of the image shows where the edge of the truck tire pushed the turtle into the sand. Vehicles on the beach are one of many illegal activities threatening the survival of this endangered species.

Researchers cannot assist the hatchlings who must make the journey from nest to sea under their own strength. However, stragglers like these that should have made it to the sea well before dawn are given a smooth track clear of debris.

Hatchlings slowly make their way along the path carved in the sand.

A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling - Caretta caretta. This hatchling makes it to the edge of sea. If the hatchling is female, she may return to Laganas Bay in 20-25 years to lay her own eggs. If the hatchling is male, this will probably be his last time on land. Males have no need to return to shore.

A hatchling swims toward an uncertain future. An estimated 20,000 juveniles are caught on longlines annually, while adults are taken in dredge nets and gill nets. Archelon is working with fisherman to raise awareness about the plight of sea turtles. Some fisherman see turtles as competition for fish and kill them deliberately.

The National Marine Park of Zakynthos is situated on the southern coast and encompasses Laganas Bay and the adjoining area. The six beaches and four islands receive varying degrees of protection dependant upon the zone - A,B or C. Only the small beach of Sekania is completely off limits to tourists (see red area). The rest of the park is an attempt to protect the environment while balancing local needs and tourist demands.

Overlooking Gerakas Beach, sun beds line the edge of the sea.

Sun beds and umbrellas surround one of dozens of sea turtle nests on Gerakas beach. The absence of Marine Park wardens means tourist operators on some beaches are putting out more sun beds than are permitted by law to accommodate more tourists.

Laganas Beach. The cafes and restaurant occupy the edge of the beach - important habit required for the nesting Loggerheads is gone.

As the Odyssey left Zakynthos, the crew encountered a large, barnacle clad adult male loggerhead sea turtle basking at the surface a few miles outside Laganas Bay possibly waiting for females.

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