On the 19th of July 2013, the BWI opened a Sea Turtle Rescue Centre in Mali Lošinj, inaugurated by the then Croatian President, Dr. Ivo Josipović . The Sea Turtle Rescue Centre was constructed as part of the ”Network for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Sea Turtles in the Adriatic (NETCET)” project funded by the European Union Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) Adriatic Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) Programme. The centre, located in the recreational area of the Hotel Vespera in Sunny Bay, Mali Lošinj is part of the network of rescue centres for conservation of sea turtles in the Adriatic Sea.

Inauguration by the former Croatian President, Dr. Ivo Josipović

Sea turtles are an ancient group of animals, inhabiting Earth for millions of years. Today they face many threats that cause their numbers to decline. The loggerhead turtle inhabits the entire Adriatic Sea year-round. It nests on beaches in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus and the hatchlings reach the Adriatic Sea as they mature. In the northern Adriatic, they enter the benthic phase of their lifecycle when they feed on benthic crustaceans and molluscs. As the northern Adriatic is a shallow sea, it represents a key habitat for loggerhead turtles. Being cold blooded animals, sea turtles spend the cold winter months ͚hibernating͛ on the bottom of the northern Adriatic Sea.

Turtles with two swallowed hooks

Living near the coast, they are exposed to human adverse influence. The IUCN lists the loggerhead turtle as vulnerable and the EU Habitats Directive lists it as a priority species for conservation. The cause of the largest mortality of sea turtles in the Adriatic Sea is fishing gear. When turtles get entangled in nets or caught in a trawl they cannot swim to the surface for air and drown. Several thousand animals die in fishing nets in the Adriatic Sea each year. If the turtles are caught when comatose or in a state of shock, and help is provided, they can recover and be released back in to the sea. Turtles get caught on longlines or swallow a hook, and may die a long and painful death; it is important to remove the hook and line from their mouth and intestines by surgery so they could recover. Collisions with fast boats cause critical injuries and death by impact or propeller cuts. Otherwise, some animals became sick or exhausted and need to be taken into recovery for help.

Sea turtle tagged with a satellite transmitter

Sea turtles are incredibly resilient and this was the motive for opening the Sea Turtle Rescue Centre – a place where professional help can be provided by trained veterinarians and biologists. The centre provides facilities including an operating room, an isolation pool and longer-term environmentally controlled recovery pools for the care of ill or injured animals. The centre will also be an opportunity for the Blue World Institute to educate visitors about sea turtles and marine conservation. The centre also organises release events. As part of the research activities, some sea turtles are tagged with satellite transmitters to enable researchers to monitor their movements.

Turtle in recovery