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Sea Turtles and Tourists

Okay so I know I’ve been in Bologna for a couple weeks, but I’m still trying to catch up on these blog posts from Greece! I have so many thoughts but such a hard time verbalizing them, so bear with me people!

I have this question regarding the tourism industry doing loops in my head every time I travel: who is it serving and who is it hurting?

If you’ve been reading my blog then you must have seen my video of Zakynthos, a beautiful island with clear blue beaches, spans of olive groves, and the Caretta caretta sea turtles. Everybody loves turtles, especially tourists, yet ironically it’s the tourism industry that is threatening their safety and exacerbating their disappearance. How?

  1. The dramatic decrease in nesting beaches due to unregulated tourism development
  • Bright lights that disorient hatchlings as they try to reach the sea
  • Vehicles on the beach that compact the sand, thus reducing circulation of oxygen between the eggs and sand
  • Umbrellas and beach furniture that destroy nests
  • Human presence on the beach at night which disturbs the hatchlings
  • Water pollutions: turtles confuse plastic bags with jellyfish, which when ingested can block their digestive system and kill them

Part of the problem may be that tourists are not properly informed about these issues. We went on a boat tour to “see” the turtles, but mainly to take our group out to good swimming spots. It was wildly depressing from the beginning. Four boats filled with tourists crowded around one turtle and waited until it surfaced for air. Once it did, the boats moved closer for the perfect photo op for their paying customers. Poor little turtle friend. She couldn’t even surface for air for one minute without being bombarded by the masses! These boats tours are also supposed to have a trained guide that explains more about the turtles lifestyles and the threats they face; ours didn’t and neither did the other boats.

However, the question of the Caretta caretta sea turtles isn’t so easy to answer. Greece is witnessing a really unpredictable economic situation, locals of Zakynthos are more than happy to accommodate tourists and sacrifice the turtles. It begs the question: who is more important, the turtles or these people’s livelihood. It could be argued that these turtles would only benefit the locals’ livelihood. There is no answer to this question, this post is really more just to get y’all thinking and to encourage you to think critically about your experiences next time you travel.

Oh yeah, here’s the turtle causing all this hubbub!

1

 

Cute huh, let’s protect it!!!

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