Protecting Turtles in the Balearic Islands
Date: August 7, 2013
Today, the traditional release of rescued turtles has taken place in the waters of Cabrera National Park, attended by the President of the Regional Government, Jose Ramon Bauza and the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Territory, Gabriel Company.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are critical to the conservation of loggerhead turtles and many other species, but more work needs to be done to improve the protection they offer.
The waters south of the Balearic Islands form an essential habitat, which every year hosts hundreds of loggerhead turtles gathering to feed and rest. One of the many dangers facing these turtles, in Menorca in particular, is the use of trammel nets (which are in fact allowed in MPAs). While underwater, turtles get caught in them and, unable to surface to breathe, drown. The problem is compounded when fishermen use longer nets (over 2000 meters) and leave them out for longer periods of time (over 48 hours), as is permitted by current legislation, thus increasing the probability of these protected animals getting caught. Unfortunately, this offense is all too common in the Balearic Islands.
This is one of the reasons behind Oceana’s campaign, which began in 2006 when we first explored these waters, to expand the current protected area to include nearby habitats. Unfortunately, they still remain mostly unprotected, but the fight isn’t over. We are also working to make sure MPA rules phase out harmful fishing gear and progressively introduce more selective varieties, such as fish pots, which do not affect turtles at all, and make fishing in MPAs compatible with the conservation of marine species.