Researchers to use drones for spotting sea turtle nests

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 19, 2018 15:28

Researchers to use drones for spotting sea turtle nests

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  • “To collect necessary data, we are using traditional methods but also a research drone with specialised software which will not only create maps of the beaches, but also analyse elevation levels, a key factor in determining the suitability of a beach to support viable nesting,” says Albanian professor Enerit Sacdanaku

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TIRANA, July 19 – A project exploring sandy beaches for sporadic nesting of sea turtles that also involves the use of drones has been launched in Albania after the country’s first turtle nest has been officially documented in Divjaka, an Adriatic beach some 90km south of Tirana.

UK-based Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles, MEDASSE, says it is supporting a 2-year research project, the first of its kind in Albania, that will help produce important data and offer useful recommendations on actions and measures to help preserve the country’s beaches for the benefit of both sea turtles and visitors.

“In summer 2018 and 2019, in collaboration with the regional agencies for protected areas, we will study the entire Albanian coast,” says Albanian professor Enerit Sacdanaku who is leading a research team exploring all the sandy beaches of Albania in order to assess which beaches are suitable for sea turtle nesting.

“To collect necessary data, we are using traditional methods but also a research drone with specialised software which will not only create maps of the beaches, but also analyse elevation levels, a key factor in determining the suitability of a beach to support viable nesting,” adds Sacdanaku, who earned his PhD from the University of Tirana researching into sea turtles at Vlora Bay, southern Albania.

While surveying, the research team will be monitoring for signs of sea turtle nesting activity and implementing an information hotline for the public, the authorities responsible for the conservation and management of beaches as well as experts in the field to report if any suspected nesting activity is seen.

Three of the seven species of sea turtles that are found in the Mediterranean are included in the IUCN Red list of threatened species.

Previous research has shown that both the endangered loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and green turtle (Chelonia mydas) migrate through Albanian waters, and that Drini Bay, north of Albania, is an important feeding, overwintering and developmental habitat for the species in the Mediterranean.

Back in 2012 Albania adopted an action plan for the conservation of sea turtles and their habitats. Sea turtles often end up in Albanian fisherman nets and are sometimes even found dead ashore.

Each summer sea turtles lay their eggs on sandy beaches in the east and south regions of the Mediterranean basin, mainly Greece, Turkey, Cyprus. In the past years, a small number of sea turtle nests have been reported in Italy, Spain and other locations where nesting has not usually occurred in the past.

“This so-called “sporadic” nesting is of high scientific and conservation interest as it may indicate a possible shift in the nesting range of sea turtles towards the west and northern areas of the Mediterranean. Sea turtles are a highly migratory species and they may be responding to climatic changes by using new habitats to nest, feed and overwinter,” says UK-based Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles.

Sea turtles are cold-blooded, air breathing, egg laying reptiles that spend their mysterious lives at sea but return each summer to the same area they were born to deposit their eggs in the sand. They take 20-30 years to mature and may live up to 100 years.

Despite having travelled the world’s seas since the age of the Dinosaurs, their survival is threatened due to coastal development, pollution, collision with vessels, fisheries and climate change.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 19, 2018 15:28