Turtles threatened by development and harmful fishing, warns UN agency

20 August 2008

Marine turtle populations in the Indian Ocean region and South-East Asia are under threat from coastal tourism, and commercial and illegal fishing practices, the United Nations environment agency reported today ahead of a meeting in Bali to sign a conservation agreement.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reported mixed results in the attempt to protect IOSEA marine turtles, according to a press release.

While South Africa’s Loggerhead turtle population has grown in the past 40 years, with the number of nests rising from 250 to 1,750, the numbers in eastern Australia and Madagascar have suffered a serious decline.

“Participating countries have made progress in many areas, but there is still room for improvement… only a few are carrying the burden of supporting international coordination efforts,” said Douglas Hyke, coordinator of the agreement’s activities for UNEP in Bangkok.

Although the most common threat to marine turtles are their natural predators, incidental capture in coastal harvesting, unsustainable egg collection, poaching and a resurgence in destructive fisheries, such as the use of dynamite and poison, contribute to their decline significantly.

“Coastal development – especially for tourist facilities – has been proceeding very fast in much of the Indian Ocean region,” said the Chairman for the programme’s Advisory Committee Jack Frazier.

“The chances for negative impacts on nesting beaches, as well as on inshore foraging and resting areas for turtles have increased, and are continuing to increase dramatically,” he added.

Delegations from more than 30 countries at the Bali conference will review the implementation of a conservation and management plan giving particular attention to coastal development issues and fisheries interaction with marine turtles.

 

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