Member states call for enhanced regional collaboration for the conservation of marine turtles
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Member states call for enhanced regional collaboration for the conservation of marine turtles

Posted on 1 February 2018

Colombo, In order to take concerted efforts for conservation of marine turtles, the NorthernIndian Ocean Marine Turtle Task Force (NIO-MTTF)established by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Indian Ocean and South East Asia(IOSEA) Marine Turtle MoU, held its second meeting from 29 to 31January. The meeting was hosted by the Department of Wildlife Conservation, Sri Lanka in Colombo andopened by Secretary Douglas Nanayakkara of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Wildlife.

Turtle experts and government officials from member countries,namely Bangladesh,India, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lankaparticipated in the meeting, supported by a number of other regional experts and non-government organizations. The group emphasized the need to enhance regional cooperation among member countries of the NIO-MTTF.

During the meeting, different issues facing marine turtles in the region were discussed and member states shared that turtle nesting beaches have been adverselyaffected by marine pollution and development activities which are degrading habitats. Further, incidental bycatch in fisheries practices andghost nets pose a serious threat to turtle populations.

As an outcome of the meeting, a regional action plan has been developed. The task force suggested that best practices from other countries should be adopted by the NIO states. It was recommended that awareness campaigns should be conducted to discourage the use of plastics. States committed oneffective enforcement of relevant legislations,reducing mortality and collaborative research initiatives including satellite and flipper tagging and genetic studies of turtle species. Member states recommended promoting sustainable livelihoods among local communities for their effective engagement in turtle conservation activities.

Heidrun Frisch-Nwakanma, IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU Coordinator, highlighted the purpose of the MoU, which was signed by 35 countries andaims to work together forconservation and managementof marineturtles and their habitats. She emphasized that a key role of the MTTF was to strengthen regional cooperation and capacity building in member states. Meetings such as this one allowed the exchange of scientific data and experiences. She also highlighted the Network of Sites of Importance for Marine Turtles in the Indian Ocean - South-East Asia Region and encouraged the Task Force to start thinking about sites that could be nominated.

While, Umair Shahid, Manager Marine Programme, WWF-Pakistan shared that WWF-Pakistan with the financial support of Engro Foundation is implementing the project titled ,Sustainable fisheries entrepreneurship: a citizen-based approach to saving Pakistan's unique marine environment' in three coastal union councils of Karachi that aims to reduce bycatch mortality, increases environmental awareness and provides alternative livelihood opportunities to local communities.He informed that the fishermen capacity building component of the project has given exciting results in terms of rescue and release of thousands of marine turtles and other endangered species. He also added thatin order to test the impacts of illumination on unwanted catch, WWF-Pakistan has placed light emitting diodes (LEDs) on two pelagic gillnets in Pakistani waters. ,The purpose of placing LEDs is to reduce unintentional catch of endangered, threatened and protected species, he added.

Samar Hussain Khan, Deputy Director Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan said that awareness raising and effective community engagement has been akey components of conservation in Pakistan. ,Export and domestic consumption of turtles is strictly prohibited under different laws in Pakistan and in this regard the government has declared some of important nesting sites such as Astola Island and Jiwani Coastal Wetlandsas Rasmar sites, he added.

On the third day of the workshop, participants visited turtle hatcheries where they learned about turtle conservation practices in Sri Lanka. To review the progress of the Task Force, it was decided that the next meeting will be held inBangladesh in 2019.

Channa Suraweera, Assistant Director Marine Department of Wildlife Conservation,Sri Lanka ; Ibrahim Naeem, Director General from Maldives; Dr. Manjula Tiwari, Research Scientist Marine Turtle Ecology and Assessment Program, USA; Dr. Mohiuddin, Joint Secretary Ministry of Environment and Forests, Bangladesh; Muralidharan Field Director Dakshin Foundation, India; Dr. Lalith Ekanayake Chairman Bio Conservation Society Sri Lanka; Rosalind Mary Kernan Bown, Researcher; and Dr. Andrea Phillott, Professor Environmental Studies, FLAME University India also spoke on the occasion.

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