OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree-year research has confirmed that Drini Bay, on the northern coast of Albania, is a regionally and nationally important habitat for sea turtles in the Mediterranean. Turtles use the Bay for for aging, as a refuge and as part of a key migratory corridor between the Ionian and Adriatic Seas.

MEDASSET, The Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles carried out sea turtle research, local capacity building and awareness-raising through the project “Monitoring and Conservation of Important Sea Turtle Feeding Grounds in the Patok Area of Albania” between June 2008 – October 2010, within its sea turtle conservation programmes throughout the Mediterranean.

Information on the sea turtle population visiting Albania’s waters had been scarce and research fragmented until 2008. Based at the Patok Lagoon area of Drini Bay, the project researchers systematically collected data during the summer months, monitoring the sea turtles captured incidentally in”stavnikes” a type of static fish-trap used in the area. A remarkable 407 sea turtles were studied and released back into the wild: 402 loggerhead turtles (Caretta Caretta) and 5 green turtles (Chelonia mydas), confirming that Albania is a range state for green turtles. An identification tag was placed on 396 of the turtles, which permitted researchers to track their migration: 54 turtles were captured more than once within the same season, suggesting short term residency in the Bay. 32 turtles were caught again during different field seasons (inter-annually), suggesting that Albania forms part of their migratory route.

The sea turtle population in Drini Bay has yet to be completely understood. However, the findings and conclusions of MEDASSET’S three-year project led to the formulation of Recommendations and a “National Sea Turtle Management Strategy”, a document which MEDASSET will submit to the Albanian Authorities in 2011. The long-term aim of this project is for Drini Bay to be recognised as a nationally and regionally important foraging and developmental habitat for sea turtles in the Mediterranean and that these endangered species are fully protected under Albanian national law.