A once-in-a-century event
Ġnejna and Golden Bay are known to have served as nesting sites for turtles in the past. This case is the first confirmed sea turtle nesting event in Malta in almost a century, although other scientifically unconfirmed records of such events have been reported from other beaches in the last 100 years, including a possible nesting in Golden Bay and Comino.
Turtles normally come up to three times in a season (and then skip some years) to lay eggs, and hence there is the possibility that the turtle in question returns to lay the 2nd or 3rd cluster of eggs (if the one laid had not been her last cluster).
Turtles are known to live many years, with some species maturing at an age greater than 35 years . Interestingly they lay their eggs on the same beach on which they were born.
The time required for the eggs take to hatch and the likelihood of such an event
Normally, hatchlings break out of their shells around 60 days after the eggs are laid. They use what is called the ‘egg tooth’ which is a temporary structure on top of their beak to break the eggs and then dig their way out of the sand and make their way to the sea.
Interestingly, the sand temperature will determine the sex of these hatchlings, with the ones in the cooler parts resulting in males and a higher temperature resulting in females.
If the turtles hatch…
It would of utmost importance that disturbance is kept to a minimum, while any necessary conservation measures are considered by experts in the field.
As indicated beforehand, disturbance to, handling or capturing of turtle eggs, live or dead turtle hatchlings or adult turtles is strictly prohibited, unless permitted by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority for justified reasons.
A word of caution
As indicated above, turtles are a particularly important species, and indeed they are protected through various legislation. In addition, the marine turtle nesting event is a rarity for Malta. Thus, all precautions to safeguard the laid eggs are being taken.
An Emergency Conservation Order (Government Notice), in relation to Ġnejna Bay, has been published, for the purpose of conserving the nesting site of the marine turtle.
The Emergency Conservation Order prohibits a number of activities from being carried out in the designated area including:
vehicular parking and use of caravans in the Emergency Conservation Area;
excessive noise and loud music; no music is allowed between 20:00 hrs and 08:00 hrs;
camping, campfires, barbeques, any other open fires, or any large organised events are not permissible at all times;
no animals shall be allowed on the Ġnejna bay;
only manual beach cleaning is allowed, and this is not allowed in the areas cordoned off, unless there is prior consultation with MEPA;
beach users shall not trespass any enclosures at all times;
any large, deep holes left by beach users shall be filled in before leaving the area.
The general public is also being urged not to take any pets whatsoever to Ġnejna Bay and to avoid playing loud music and making any excessive noise at all times, until further notice.
It is also encouraged that light is controlled, especially noting that turtle hatchlings rely on light from the moon or stars reflected by the sea to move towards the sea once they break out of their shells.
Further information on turtles and turtle nesting [more will be made available soon]
Emergency Conservation Order (Government Notice)
DOs and DON'Ts
Close-ups of Maltese Nature - The Loggerhead Turtle
Ġnejna beach granted maximum protection
Guidelines for marine turtle encounters
Turtle tracks or observations of turtle activity should be immediately reported to MEPA on 99210404/99381811 or email@example.com.