– The sea turtles of the Mediterranean
lay eggs in the sand of beaches; but few sites are still sufficiently preserved to welcome them.
The Kuriat Islands, off Monastir, are among them. On the southern shore of the Mediterranean, this is their last stable nesting site on the western side.
The municipality of Monastir, the Agency for the protection of the seashore and a local association, Notre Grand Bleu (‘Our Big Blue’), work together to preserve the site.
A fine of 1000 dinars against illegal fishing has just been introduced, in addition to actions to protect the nests and educate tourists.
A species at risk
Each summer, ‘Caretta caretta’ sea turtles still make their way to the Kuriat Islands to lay their eggs.
These turtles are threatened, but very useful: they mainly feed on jellyfish. They therefore help to prevent their proliferation.
Unfortunately, many die from mistakenly swallowing plastic bags that float in water.
Others are captured for their flesh and shell. The global warming and human activities on the beaches are also disrupting their reproduction.
The smallest of the Kuriat Islands is visited in summer by hundreds of vacationers who come for the day to bathe in its very pure water.
But this tourist activity remains limited: all visitors must leave the island by 3 p.m. In fact, only calm and complete darkness allow turtles to come and lay their eggs at night.
The Notre Grand Bleu association has been ensuring since 2017 that this cohabitation goes well.
Volunteers spot dozens of nests every year and mark them with stakes to prevent them from being trampled. Then they watch them until they hatch and accompany the babies to the sea.
They also study the turtles that visit the beach, and sometimes care for them.
Swimming on turtle island
The association takes advantage of the arrival of holidaymakers to publicize this phenomenon and explain the threats to turtles.
“When visitors see a turtle, or a baby turtle, they are deeply touched. This has a very positive impact on the island, the environment and in particular the sea turtle”, says Ahmed Ghedira, co-founder of the association and deputy mayor of Monastir in charge of the environment.
Notre Grand Bleu is now inventing other eco-friendly activities to reduce the concentration of visitors on the beach.
An underwater educational trail has been set up in the rocky areas to discover life underwater with mask and snorkel.
A pedestrian educational path is also in progress.
If you go on an excursion to Kuriat Island, you might be lucky enough to witness the birth of a baby turtle.
Otherwise, you will learn a lot about the life of turtles but also birds, fish and posidonia, this marine plant essential to biodiversity in the Mediterranean.