A loggerhead sea turtle named Rose is being released back into the Mediterranean waters of Tunisia after spending a month recovering at the First Aid Sea Turtle Center in Sfax. The center, run by the EU-funded Life Med Turtles project, aims to protect endangered species like the loggerhead and collect data to improve marine life conservation.
Since its establishment in 2021, the First Aid Sea Turtle Center has successfully treated and returned nearly 80 turtles to their natural environment. Imed Jribi, the center's chief, expressed the importance of utilizing the turtles for scientific research, protection, and raising awareness.
The center not only focuses on rehabilitating injured turtles but also educates the local population in places like Sfax, a fishing-dependent community. Fisherman Hamadi Dahech, who unintentionally trapped Rose in a fishing net, shared his transformation from ignorance to awareness regarding sea turtles. Thanks to the center's efforts, Dahech believes Rose now has a better chance of survival at sea.
To highlight the incredible marine life in the Tunisian waters, the center opens to the public on weekends. This initiative allows locals, like Malak Morali and her children, to observe the release of turtles like Rose and learn about the importance of their protection. Morali also shared how the center taught her that sea turtle meat is not safe for consumption due to pollution and toxins like mercury.
The primary threat to loggerhead sea turtles in the Mediterranean is entanglement in fishing nets, leading to their death. Each year, around 10,000 loggerheads are caught in trawlers and fishing nets off the Tunisian coast. Gillnets, specifically, contribute to around 70 percent of sea turtle deaths in the region. However, some turtles are fortunate enough to be rescued and cared for by fishermen who frequently bring them to the center.
In addition to the dangers caused by fishing activities, global warming poses a significant threat to the survival of sea turtles. Rising temperatures affect the sex ratio of turtle hatchlings, potentially putting the species at risk of extinction. The center in Sfax remains determined to prevent further harm to loggerhead sea turtles by continuing its conservation efforts.
Before Rose's release, a location tracker was attached to her shell. This tracker will allow researchers to analyze her migration patterns and behavior, providing valuable insights into the species. The release of Rose symbolizes her role in protecting the marine ecosystem, as expressed by her rescuer, Hamadi Dahech.
The collective efforts of organizations like Life Med Turtles and the First Aid Sea Turtle Center in Sfax provide hope for the survival and conservation of endangered sea turtle species in the Mediterranean.