Marine turtle conservation in West Africa

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Africa General

Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Cape Verde
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Gambia
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Guinea
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Guinea-Bissau
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Mauritania
Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Senegal

A loggerhead turtle returns to the sea after having laid her eggs. Ervatao beach, Boa Vista Island, Cape Verde.
© WWF-Canon / Olivier VAN BOGAERT

Summary

The beaches of Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal are important nesting sites to five marine turtle species: green, hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback and olive ridley. All five species are categorized as endangered or critically endangered. The major threats to marine turtles in West Africa are harvesting and overexploitation of eggs, meat and other products; incidental capture by gillnets, trawlers, and other fishing gear; and loss and degradation of habitats.

WWF is working to improve the conservation status of marine turtles in West Africa by protecting turtle nesting ground, supporting environmental awareness and education programmes, reducing bycatch through sustainable fishing practices and strengthening regional marine turtle management.

Background

The Western African Marine Ecoregion (WAMER) covers the Cape Verde Islands, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal. It is particularly significant to marine turtle conservation as there are 6 species of marine turtles which live here. In addition, the coastline of the ecoregion forms the northern boundary for nesting sites in the eastern Atlantic and 5 species, from temperate to tropical waters, nest there.

There are 3 large breeding populations which are globally or regionally important:

- Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) - Guinea-Bissau hosts the largest breeding population in Africa.
- Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) - The Cape Verde Islands harbours the 2nd largest breeding population in the Atlantic and the 3rd largest population in the world after that of the United States).
- Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) – regionally significant in Guinea-Bissau.

Marine turtle populations in the sub-region are in a critical conservation state due to the following 3 factors:

- A high traditional and/or ancestral consumption of marine turtles and their eggs;
- Fishing activity causing a large number of captures and accidental deaths;
- Habitat degradation in the marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Objectives

Overall objective

- Improve the conservation status of marine turtles in West Africa.

Specific objectives

- Reduce human-induced death rate of marine turtles.

- Preserve marine turtle hotspots.

Solution

- Improve knowledge on marine turtle species in West Africa.

- Strengthen sub-regional collaboration for marine turtle conservation in West Africa.

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