A dead sea turtle was found on Friday in the Koutavos lagoon, near Argostoli. The turtle had been cut into two, and only the front half of her body was located. The type of the cut suggests that it was caused by a large ship propeller strike.
Judging from its size and characteristics, the turtle was an adult, meaning it came to Kefalonia to reproduce. The death of an adult sea turtle is a very serious setback to their population, because less than one in a thousand hatchlings make it to adulthood, and they need more than 25 to 30 years to reach this stage of their lives. Every time an adult turtle dies, their population comes closer to extinction.
Ship propeller strikes are a serious cause of mortality for sea turtles. This type of accident is often reported in areas where shipping lanes or ports overlap with sea turtle nesting or foraging habitats. In Argostoli, the presence of a number of sea turtles foraging in the harbor area has been known for more than a decade, and a number of actions are necessary to reduce the risk of similar accidents.
The first and most important one is to raise awareness, especially to boat and ship operators. They can help significantly by exhibiting caution while manuevering within the port to avoid injuring a turtle, but also to immediately report an injury and help with the rescue operation if an injury does occur. The main instrument to achieve this is through the Port Authority and the Port Police of Argostoli, as well as independent awareness actions.
However, a thorough understanding of the sea turtles that swim in the harbour area is necessary for the successful management of this problem. Part of Wildlife Sense's research in the area is the observation and recording of sea turtles swimming in the harbor area and the Koutavos lagoon, and their foraging behaviour. This will help us give boat and ship operators updated guidelines on when and where they need to be more cautious to avoid injuring a sea turtle.