The loggerhead sea turtle (scient. Caretta caretta) is the most important sea turtle species of Greece, which is strictly protected by the Greek laws. In Greece, two organizations are involved in the protection of sea turtles, namely ARCHELON and MEDASSET, actually doing a great job.
The caretta turtle has a hard shell with 5 scutes on each side and its length extends to 100-120cm. Its weight usually reaches 100-150kg, but sometimes exceeds 450kg and the turtle lifespan is 47-67 years. It feeds mainly on jellyfish, molluscs, crustaceans, and rarely with algae. Unfortunately, a large number of turtles lose their life by swallowing plastic bags, confusing them with jellyfish.
Crete is one of the most important places for Caretta caretta breeding, as hundreds of loggerhead turtles lay their eggs on the island’s sandy beaches every summer. That's why associations for the protection of the sea turtles operate in the northern beaches of Chania and Rethymno cities, and in the Gulf of Messara, where the birthrates are higher than in other beaches of the island.
The female turtle approach the shores of Crete only for giving birth, every 2-4 years, from May to September. This is the time when beaches are filled with people. Once it finds a beach with no lights, it comes out in darkness and gives birth to 20-200 eggs, which are buried in the sand. When eggs hatch (after 2 months) the young turtles head to the sea. The female turtles live in the open sea till they become mature and return to the same beach to lay their eggs.
The problem with the life cycle of turtles is that the deterioration or destruction of the beach where they were born makes them actually incapable of reproduction (as they always lay their eggs on the same beach). For this reason, on beaches where turtles usually reproduce, it is not allowed to use lights, speakers, driving in the sand and walking in the evening, so as not to disturb turtles.
In Crete, turtles lay their eggs on all the sandy beaches of the island, so it is advisable to avoid evening walks on the beach during these hours. Also, if you locate a nest, you must call the relevant association and mark the spot temporarily, so as to avoid walking there. When informed, the association ARCHELON places metal cages over the nest. Also, for those interested, ARCHELON accepts donations and volunteers to support the association’s activities.