Protecting the nest

It’s turtle hatching season once again! The Environment & Resources Agency explains how the public can lend a hand.

These past summers we have witnessed an increase in the number of marine turtles which haul themselves ashore to dig nests and deposit their eggs in the warm Maltese sands.  This can be attributed to the increase in awareness and conservation efforts that have aided the turtles’ population in moments of vulnerability. 

Due to this increase, the likelihood of a new nest in Malta or Gozo is high during the upcoming nesting season between late May and August. The public is being urged keep a look out for any nests or turtle activity.

If any observations are made the public should immediately get in touch with Nature Trust-FEE Malta on 21313150 and Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) on 2292 3500 or online on era.org.mt.

The public is also urged to keep a respectful distance from any turtles encountered on the beach at night and to avoid using bright lights or flash photography which can deter the nesting process.

Nature Trust-FEE Malta which are being co-financed by ERA also coordinate patrols and monitoring of known turtle nesting beaches like Ramla Bay in Gozo and Golden Bay in Malta. Trained wardens locate and protect any turtle nests from beachgoers and other disturbances, together with the help of ERA officers.

Information on the species

The loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) is a keystone species found throughout the Mediterranean Sea and other warm ocean waters around the globe. Growing up to a meter long and weighing over 200kg, these air-breathing reptiles have existed since the time of the dinosaurs over 100 million years ago.

Their populations have declined dramatically due to human activities like development of nesting beaches, pollution, and bycatch from commercial fishing. As such, the loggerhead is classified as a globally endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is protected by various national and international laws.

The first loggerhead turtles begin appearing on local beaches in late May and early June. Using their large front flippers, the females dig egg chambers in the sand, depositing between 80-120 leathery eggs in each nest before covering it back up. A single female may lay 3-4 nests over the summer season.

After about 60 days of incubation, tiny hatchlings emerge and immediately scramble towards the sea, guided by reflected moonlight on the water. Statistically, only about 1 in 1,000 loggerheads survives to adulthood, providing more incentive to protect the nests and hatchlings during this vulnerable stage.

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