West African Marine Ecoregion project: turtles

Conservation and sustainable use of marine turtles

The West African Marine Ecoregion (WAMER) hosts populations of each of the five marine turtle species:

All five species are categorised as endangered or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Major threats
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. The main actors/stakeholders are local communities, the fishery sector, and the tourism sector.

Minimizing impacts
Local communities may decide to reduce their traditional uses of turtles and turtle products once they learn about or, rather still, become active participants in conservation initiatives.

Fishery-related impacts can be minimized through awareness campaigns for artisanal fishermen, as has been demonstrated in the Sine Saloum (in Senegal) and the Banc d’Arguin National Park (in Mauritania).

Turtle eggs for sale / ©: WWF-Canon / Edward Parker
Turtle eggs for sale
© WWF-Canon / Edward Parker
Furthermore, impacts can be minimized by adapting deployment of nets to reduce drowning, and by encouraging the industrial fishery sector to install turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in trawls. Also, disturbance to nesting beaches can be reduced through integrated approaches to coastal planning, correct siting of structures, and controls on lighting, as is currently planned in Cape Verde.

Challenges
In most of the WAMER countries, information concerning turtle habitats and population dynamics is incomplete. Regional collaboration in collecting and sharing of research data is needed to guide management actions and determine priorities.

In addition, many of the marine turtle conservation issues are common throughout the region, and individual countries have much to gain from sharing experience concerning legislation and awareness raising activities at different levels (communities, fishermen, tourism sector).

Objectives
The objective of the WWF WAMER project is to build capacity for marine turtle management at national and regional levels, address information needs for marine turtle management, strengthen regional collaboration, and to implement priority management actions.

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