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Since 2012, the Marineland Association has been running the ObsTortueMed conservation programme: Observation of Sea Turtles in the Mediterranean. Apart from monitoring populations at sea off the Alpes-Maritimes and Var, ObsTortueMed improves our understanding of the changing population structure and identifies the threats specific to a region particularly impacted by human activity.
ObsTortueMed is divided into several components:
This component is an observation campaign based on the principle of participatory or citizen science. Its objective is to establish the state of sea turtle populations off the coast of the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var. These observation reports have been compiled each year, documenting the presence, abundance and geographical distribution of the three species along our coasts.
Located at the tip of the Cap d'Antibes, in the bay of Juan les Pins, on a site belonging to the Conservatoire du Littoral, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (Centre de Réhabilitation de la Faune Sauvage–C.R.F.S.) is a "hospital" dedicated to sea turtles that have been stranded or found in difficulty off the coasts of the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var. With its three individual 1000 litre tanks and 17 m3 main pool, its has the capacity to care for 5 sea turtles.
This treatment center, one of 3 in France on the Mediterranean coast, opened its doors in July 2017. It is managed and financed by the Marineland Association and benefits from Marineland's specialised personnel (staff and vets). Turtles in difficulty are welcomed and cared for there until their release back into their natural environment.
The Marineland Association handles autopsies of dead turtles found off or on the coasts of the Alpes-Maritimes and the Var. This activity allows us to identify more precisely the causes of death and the threats to these protected species. As part of the scientific programme of the Sea Turtle Observatory of Metropolitan France and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon (OTM), biological samples (in particular blood and skin) and an analysis of the digestive contents are systematically taken in order to enrich the databases and enhance scientific studies. These samples, as well as the data collected by the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (C.R.F.S.), are also used in the monitoring programme of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) as well as the European INDICIT programme (INDICator Impact Turtle).
The ObsTortueMed campaign begins each spring with a visit to professionals and users of the sea: over 80 centers in the Alpes-Maritimes and Var regions are made aware each year of the importance of recording sea turtle sightings (harbourmasters' offices, diving clubs, fishing boats, deep-sea fishing, whale-watching, yacht clubs, regatta associations, SNSM boats, maritime affairs departments, excursion shuttles, maritime police forces, sailing schools, school boats, are all involved). These professionals and users of the sea, thanks to this awareness-raising component, relay their observations made during the year and enrich the "Observations at sea" database.
Meetings are also organized with professional networks such as fire department bases and fisheries prud'homies. All data on sightings, strandings and turtles in care are communicated to the RTMMF (Réseaux Tortues Marines de Méditerranée Française) commission of the SHF (Société Herpétologique de France).
In France, all sea turtle species are protected. This means that to intervene on a sea turtle, even one in difficulty, you need to be authorized to do so, and have a waiver issued by the relevant authorities as part of a scientific program validated by the Conseil National pour la Protection de la Nature (French National Council for the Protection of Nature).
There are seven species of sea turtle in the world, 3 of which are regularly found in the western Mediterranean: the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), the Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Sea turtles are migratory. They roam the seas and oceans in search of feeding, breeding and nesting grounds. This diversity of habitats only increases the risks and threats they face.
The sea turtle has been designated as a bio-indicator of the ecological environment in which it evolves within the framework of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), which aims to achieve good ecological status. ObsTortueMed is helping to set up the waste analysis protocol and data transfer.