On the 19th of July 2013 the Blue World Institute of Marine Research and Conservation will open the new Sea Turtle Rescue Centre in Mali Lošinj, Croatia. We are proud to announce that this centre will be opened by the Croatian President, Ivo Josipović.

The Sea Turtle Rescue Centre has been constructed as part of the project: ‘Network for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Sea Turtles in the Adriatic (NETCET)’ funded by the European Union Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) Adriatic Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) Programme. In the future this centre will be an integral part of the network of rescue centres for conservation of sea turtles in the Adriatic Sea.

Sea turtles are an ancient group of animals, inhabiting the Earth for millions of years. Today they face a number of threats that cause their decline. Of seven species of sea turtles that live today, three species have been regularly observed in the Mediterranean Sea. The leatherback turtle is a largest of the sea turtles and the only one with shell made of connective tissue. It does not nest in the Mediterranean but can be observed occasionally. The green turtle is a species that nests along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. This species prefers warmer waters so it is most often found in the southern Adriatic.

The loggerhead turtle is the species that inhabits the entire Adriatic Sea year round. It nests on beaches in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. After hatching they crawl to the sea and swim towards the open water where they mature. During this phase they enter the Adriatic Sea. In the northern Adriatic they enter the benthic phase of their lifecycle when they feed on the crustacean snails and shells from the sea bed. 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 “hibernating” on the bottom of the northern Adriatic Sea. As they live in such close proximity to the coast and human activities, we have the capacity to negatively affect their existence. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the loggerhead turtle as endangered 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 through fishing gear. When turtles get entangled in nets or caught in a trawl they cannot swim to the surface for air and they drown. Several thousand animals die in the fishing nets in the Adriatic Sea per year. In some instances the animals can be caught when comatose and in a state of shock, so if help is provided they can recover and released back in to the sea. A number of animals get caught on longlines, they may swallow a hook, some animals die but others can recover. It is important to remove the hook and line from their mouth and intestines through surgery otherwise they can die a long and painful death. Collisions with fast boats can also cause critical injuries and death of animals either through contact with the boat or cut by the propeller. Otherwise, some animals became sick or exhausted and they need to be taken into recovery for help.

Sea turtles are incredibly resistant so if help can be provided in rescue centres it can enable them to fully recover and they can be successfully released back in to the wild. This was the impetus for the opening of the Sea turtle rescue centre. A place where professional help can be provided by trained veterinarians and biologists. The Sea Turtle rescue centre will provide facilities including a surgery, an isolation pool and longer-term environmentally controlled recovery pools for the care of ill or injured of the animals. The centre will also be an opportunity for the Blue World Institute to educate visitors about Sea Turtles using educational displays, allowing visitors to see animals in recovery, with minimum disturbance. In addition the centre will organise release events, with some turtles satellite tagged to enable visitors monitor their movements.

The Blue World Institute is a pioneer the field of large marine vertebrate research and conservation in the Adriatic Sea. Research of the bottlenose dolphin populations in Lošinj, Kornati and Vis areas, aerial surveys for estimating abundance of cetaceans and sea turtles in the Adriatic sea and other projects have all been aimed at species conservation in the wild. This new project is a step towards the development of new facilities that will be based in the harbour of Mali Lošinj –the planned Marine Science Centre –through these projects we will help to rehabilitate animals and enable their release in the sea.

The Sea Turtle Rescue Centre is located in the recreational zone of the Hotel Vespera in Sunčana uvala on the island of Lošinj. In cooperation with our partners, the City of Mali Lošinj, the Tourism Board of Mali Lošinj and Jadranka Group we look forward to welcoming scientists, students, volunteers and school groups as well as all of the visitors to the island of Lošinj in the near future.

For further information please contact us or see our website