Turkish Town Bans Fireworks to Save Sea Turtles


Fireworks are a popular way to celebrate in Turkey. Photo by Jennifer Hattam.

Especially during the summer months, the sound of fireworks is part of the evening soundtrack in Turkey, where pyrotechnics are often used to celebrate weddings, football victories, and official ceremonies alike. But a municipality on the country's Mediterranean coast has put the kibosh on such festivities, saying they can fatally frighten endangered sea turtles.This week, the Kızılot municipality in Antalya's Manavgat district announced that it would ban fireworks during the summer season, when loggerhead sea turtles are breeding along the area's seven-kilometer beach, the Anatolia News Agency reported.

Loggerheads in the Mediterranean mate from late March to early June, with the female nesting season reaching its peak in June and July, depending on the nesting beach. Their tiny hatchlings' subsequent trek to the sea has already been a subject of debate in many resort areas, since hotel lights and other artificial illumination can lead them astray. The fireworks add a new wrinkle to the problem.

Fireworks Scare Turtles, Mayor Says
"When loud noise is added to the lights, the turtles' fear increases 10 times," Kızılot Mayor Mustafa Keçer said. "Since the fireworks scare the turtles, the hotels in the region will not be allowed to use fireworks during the tourist season."

Though some visitors may balk at the ban, sea turtles are generally a tourism draw wherever they hatch. Further west along the Turkish coast, the popular Dalyan Beach has been a "flagship beach" for the conservation of marine turtles since 1987, when the animals' local champions prevented the development of a large resort hotel that would have destroyed turtle nesting sites.

Loggerhead's Fatal Collision With Boat Propeller
But the death of an adult female loggerhead, the victim of a collision with a boat propeller last fall in Fethiye, another favorite Mediterranean destination, sparked discussion about whether Turkey's efforts to protect the animals are sufficient.

"[Turtles] are used for everything from the name of a bar to a plastic-turtle keychain to the design on a T-shirt. This is no less than exploitation," marine-management specialist Ismail Nalbantoğlu told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review at the time. "Everyone wants to benefit from their popularity with tourists, but no one is prepared to do what is needed to protect them."

Added Meryem Tekin of the Underwater Research Society: "It is really important that the authorities start thinking about how to decrease or contain sea-turtle deaths. Propeller guards and no-go zones near nesting beaches for motor boats are just two ideas that should be discussed."

Balloons Are No Solution
In addition to boats, fishing lines, fishing hooks, and plastic bags can all kill or injure sea turtles -- a fact that makes Kızılot's otherwise praiseworthy proposal seem lacking in basic understanding of how to protect the animals. As an alternative to fireworks, you see, Mayor Keçer "proposed that hoteliers organize balloon shows instead."

A reader of the newspaper where his remarks were published was quick on the draw, adding this comment to the online version of the story:

This is an excellent move to protect these highly endangered animals. But PLEASE do not substitute fireworks for balloons. When the balloons are released, they drift for miles until they fall into the ocean. Turtles eat the balloons thinking they are jellyfish. Then their intestinal system becomes clogged up and the animal dies from starvation.

How about a nice organic champagne toast to celebrate instead?

More about sea turtles:
Adopt a Sea Turtle!
Moonlight Walks on the Beach Can Be Perilous (For Sea Turtles, That Is)
Gadget for Fishing Nets Could Save Sea Turtles, or Could Be Useless Junk
Think Mom's the Best? Share Her With a Sea Turtle
An Instance When Man-Made Fibers Help a Sea Turtle Out
Sick Turtle Checks Self Into Hospital
Sea Turtle Cam Reveals Surprising Food Choice (Video)
Endangered Sea Turtles Face Death by a Thousand Hooks
Thousands of Sea Turtles Dead in Baja
Turtle-Oriented Eco-Tourism Springs Up in Central America
The Great Turtle Race

Tags: Animals | Oceans | Tourism | Turkey | Turtles

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