After decades of decline, only around 350 green turtles nest each year in the Mediterranean. And almost 95 percent of them head for beaches in Turkey and Cyprus. It is a particularly small, geographically restricted, and reproductively isolated population – and one that is under serious threat.

Historically, turtles were hunted for their meat and body fat. This led to such a drastic fall in their numbers that Turkey prohibited hunting in 1984. But the Mediterranean’s green turtles are still in dire straits due to bycatch in commercial fisheries.

The eastern Mediterranean is an important area for fishing trawlers and longline fleets targeting pelagic and bottom-dwelling species – both of which continue to accidentally catch and kill endangered marine turtles, including greens.

Since 1995, WWF-Turkey has been collaborating with the authorities by monitoring bycatch during trawling, encouraging the safe release of captured turtles, and increasing public awareness of both the problems and solutions.

But more needs to be done to conserve this ancient creature. The authorities need to review fishery regulations, promote effective methods of reducing bycatch, and increase the number of marine protected areas. Only then will green turtles be assured of a future in the Mediterranean, where they have always been an integral part of the culture.

turtles are entangled each year in the Mediterranean
of them die as a result of becoming entangled