Sea turtles need protection from extinction

New measures to protect sea turtles are needed as their number has fallen sharply because of human impact and economic development, delegates heard at a conference last Friday in the central province of Ninh Thuan.

Local residents in the central province of Khanh Hoa release a sea turtle back to its natural environment. The number of sea turtles has fallen sharply. — VNA/VNS Photo Tien Minh

Speaking at the conference, Pham Trong Yen of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Directorate of Fisheries said that sea turtles in Viet Nam listed in the Red Book faced the threat of extinction.

The conference is being held to discuss the National Marine Turtle Conservation Action Plan 2015-2025.

Five different sea turtles, including loggerhead, green turtle, hawksbill, olive ridley and leatherback, are present in Viet Nam.

Four of them often laid eggs, Yen said, but for the last 10 years, the hawksbills have not.

"There has been a decline of 75 to 99 per cent in number of all five of these kinds of sea turtles," he said.

Sea turtles are believed to live from 60 to 100 years, but they require different living environments at different stages of their lives.

In addition, the proportion of living eggs is now very low. Only one sea turtle is born out of 1,000 eggs.

"If mature turtles continue to be exploited, within several decades, sea turtles will disappear," Yen said.

Moreover, the egg-laying grounds for sea turtles has declined because of rapid tourism development.

"The catching and purchasing of sea turtles was banned by law in 2004," he said.

In 2004, the then Ministry of Fisheries approved the Marine Turtle Preservation Action Plan up to 2010 with 70 activities.

Within the last 10 years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has co-operated with provinces and cities along the sea to protect turtles.

Several thousand people have received training in sea turtle protection. Instruction emphasised the importance of not throwing plastic bags into the sea and releasing turtles if they were unintentionally caught.

"However, about 7,000 sea turtles were caught and purchased, mostly in the central province of Quang Ngai.

They then were transported to make handicrafts in the central city of Nha Trang, and were sold to Chinese traders," said Bui Thi Ha, deputy director of Education for Nature – Viet Nam.

Ha said that authorities must pay attention to the illegal catching and trading of sea turtles.

After the Marine Turtle Preservation Action Plan to 2010 was implemented, experts identified reasons for the decline of sea turtles.

Biodiversity research was then carried out on 30 islands suited for turtles to lay eggs; 49 training courses were organised for 2,654 fishermen and local staff on sea turtle protection; 50,000 leaflets were delivered; and over 5,700 sea turtles were released from 2004 to 2014.

The National Marine Turtle Preservation Action Plan 2015-2025 aims to effectively preserve and manage sea turtle populations and places where they live in order to recover their habitat and numbers.

"To achieve the goal, a legal framework must be improved to protect sea turtles along with a reduction of sea turtle deaths. All egg-laying and egg-hatching grounds must be protected. It is expected that 100 per cent of the sea turtle living environment will be recovered," Yen added.

Two first-aid centres for sea turtles will be built on Con Dao island and Nui Chua National Park, and a database system for sea turtles will be completed.

"Viet Nam will have full responsibility under all international treaties related to sea turtle protection," he said.

At the conference, representatives from Binh Dinh, Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan provinces shared their experiences about sea turtle preservation.

The conference is one activity under a five-year Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Directorate of Fisheries and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This includes implementation of projects on marine turtle conservation under the Viet Nam Marine Turtle Conservation Action Plan 2015-2025, enhancing the management effectiveness of Marine-Protected Areas.

It includes sustainable financing for conservation and development of aquatic resources, especially support of research on and the finalization of the legal framework forthe Viet Nam Fund for Aquatic Resources Reproduction.

The conference was organised at the Nui Chua National Park in Ninh Thuan Province by the Directorate of Fisheries, IUCN and Ninh Thuan People's Committee.


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