National Action Plan for the sea turtle (Caretta caretta)

May 8, 2024
Categories: Press release

Greece hosts important Caretta caretta breeding habitats (about 3,500 nests per year on average) that represent 47% of the annual breeding activity recorded throughout the Mediterranean sea. Sea turtle’s terrestrial and marine breeding habitats are found on Ionian Sea islands, along the Epirus coasts, on western and southern Peloponnese, Crete and sporadically on some of the Aegean and Dodecanese islands. Of these, the most important nesting habitats are located in Zakynthos island and in Kyparissiakos Gulf.

Pressures and threats exerted on the species are found in both terrestrial and marine environments which are both used by the Caretta caretta species during different stages of its complex life cycle.

In terrestrial breeding habitats, the species faces habitat degradation due to coastal construction, tourism related disturbances (e.g. light pollution, marine furniture and wheeled vehicles on the beaches, etc.), coastal erosion and the accompanying projects to protect the coastlines from it (e.g. seawalls, jetties and breakwaters), eggs and chicks predation by foxes and dogs.

Regarding pressures and threats on Caretta caretta species in marine environments, motorized water sports are one of the main pressures causing injury or death due to impact, while bycatch in fishing gear and pollution are additional threats for the species.

Caretta caretta is a priority species which is included in Annex II of Directive 92/43/EEC, in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a species of “Least concern” at the Mediterranean level and in the Red Book of Threatened Animals of Greece as “Endangered”.

The species is included in the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean and the CITES the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

In Greece, the species conservation status according to the 4th National Report under Article 17 of Directive 92/43/EEC for the period 2013-2018 was assessed as “Unfavourable-Bad” (U2).


National action plan

The objective of the National action plan (NAP) is to improve the sea turtles conservation status in Greece through population recovery and improvement of survival rates in their terrestrial and marine habitats.

In order to achieve the objectives of the NAP, specific management actions, which have been selected based on prioritization and after [investigating] [assessing] [taking into consideration] available funding possibilities, will be implemented in the first stage.

Among other management actions of the NAP that will be implemented, a special study and assessment will be carried out regarding the consequences of sea turtle accidental capture in fishing gear, with an emphasis on coastal fishing and the use of static nets in particular, which result in  injury or death of the animals.

The study will estimate sea turtle mortality rates (direct, indirect and intentional), but will also investigate the causes of mortality and morbidity of turtles in general. This action will enrich the existing knowledge about the pressures and threats faced by the species.

The above mentioned study, coupled with previous programmemes experience, will form the basis for the initial design and pilot implementation of measures to prevent and/or reduce the sea turtles capturing by fishing gear. Measures will include pilot practices such as the use of special LED lamps in nets, circular hooks and alternative baits, etc.

These actions will be accompanied by awareness-raising and training activities addressed both to fishermen on how to disentangle animals after they are accidentally caught in fishing gear, as well as other users of the marine environment. These awareness-raising and training measures are expected to further reduce turtle mortality.

In order to improve the conservation status of Caretta caretta breeding habitats on the mainland, an assessment study of carrying capacity will be prepared, with the aim to determine the maximum number of visitors, beach amenities, catering facilities and marine sports on species important nesting areas. According to the results of this study, the permitted intensity of the aforementioned activities will be legally approved in order to mitigate the anthropogenic disturbances in the breeding sites.

Accordingly, a light pollution reduction study will be carried out for Caretta caretta breeding sites in areas identified as having relevant nuisance problems, and proposed mitigation measures will be implemented according to the results of the study.

For the conservation and recovery of Caretta caretta populations, a nest and chick protection programme will be implemented in important sea turtle nesting sites. The protection programme will include special marking of the nests to avoid disturbance by visitors, but also nest transport by specialized personnel to protect them from possible sea flooding.

To evaluate the management actions effectiveness, a monitoring programme will be implemented that will use evaluation indicators, in order to assess the implemented action in an objective and measurable way, to the extent that this is possible.

The  NAP implementation, beyond the obvious benefits for the species itself, is expected to contribute to the improvement of the conservation status of the other two sea turtle species found in our country (Chelonia mydas and Dermochelys coriacea), and in the long term to the recovery of the populations of sea turtles at national and Mediterranean level.



  1. The National Action Plan for the sea turtle (Caretta Caretta) has been legally approved by the Ministry of the Environment and Energy (the Ministerial Decision is available here).
  2. The Ministerial Decision was based on the corresponding study carried out by the Association for the Conservation of Sea Turtles ARCHELON in the framework of the LIFE-NATURE project LIFE Euroturtles (LIFE15NAT/HR/000997) and received by the Natural Environment and Biodiversity Management Directorate of the Ministry of the Environment and Energy under the Integrated Project LIFE-IP 4 NATURA “Integrated actions for conservation and management of Natura 2000 sites, species, habitats and ecosystems in Greece” (LIFE16 IPE/GR/000002).

3. The full texts of the study are available on the LIFE-IP 4 NATURA deliverables page (Action A.1)