CMS - Marine Turtles (South-East Asia and Africa)

 
 
Marine Turtles – Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia (IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU)
 
There are six species of marine turtle found in the waters of South-east Asia and the Indian Ocean. All are endangered, facing threats from accidental capture in industrial fishing operations, unsustainable harvesting at nesting sites and in near-shore waters and, destruction of nesting beaches from inappropriate coastal development. Due to their migratory nature, marine turtles in this region regularly cross national boundaries, and there is a need to better coordinate conservation efforts at the international level.
 
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia was finalised in Manila, the Philippines in June 2001, and came into effect in September 2001. The MoU provides a framework through which States of the region, as well as other concerned States, can work together to conserve and replenish depleted marine turtle populations for which they share responsibility. It acknowledges a wide range of threats to marine turtles, including habitat destruction, direct harvesting and trade, fisheries by-catch, pollution and other man-induced sources of mortality. Accordingly, the MoU includes a comprehensive region-wide plan containing 24 programmes and 105 specific activities which aim to reverse the decline of marine turtle populations throughout the region. The measures to be taken focus on reducing threats, conserving critical habitat, exchanging scientific data, increasing public awareness and participation, promoting regional cooperation and seeking resources for implementation.
 
The UK ratified the MoU on behalf of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) in March 2002. The BIOT hosts significant nesting populations of critically endangered hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata and endangered green turtles Chelonia mydas, with about 300 of each nesting annually. Endangered leatherback turtles Dermochelys coriacea are a vagrant in the area.
 
JNCC provided scientific support to the UK delegation at the first meeting of Signatory States to the Indian Ocean - Southeast Asian Marine Turtle MoU held in Bangkok, Thailand in January 2003. Nearly 20 Signatory and observer States participated in the meeting, together with interested non-government and international government organisations from around the region. The UK delegation played a significant role in the outcomes of the meeting which established an advisory committee, reviewed implementation of the conservation and management plan, the format for national reporting and identified complementary regional initiatives. Since then, JNCC has represented the UK at each meeting of the Signatory States and provided scientific advice to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in the compilation of the yearly report.

 
Marine Turtles – Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning Conservation Measures for Marine Turtles of the Atlantic Coast of Africa
 
Marine turtles are thought to be numerous along much of the Atlantic coast of Africa, extending from Morocco to South Africa. Information suggests that the waters of Morocco (which includes the Western Sahara region) are regularly visited by loggerhead Caretta caretta, leatherback Dermochelys coriacea, and green Chelonia mydas turtles, and occasionally by hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata and olive ridley Lepidochelys olivacea turtles. Large numbers of marine turtles are systematically slaughtered for meat, and their eggs sold for food, beyond what is sustainable. Considerable numbers die after becoming entangled in fishing nets. Others are killed for their shells, as there appears to be a trade in turtle shells both within and between some countries in the region, often in defiance of international trade laws on endangered species. Interest in basic research and conservation activities in a number of countries have grown considerably in recent years; however gaps in the knowledge of marine turtle distribution and abundance remain vast and efforts to coordinate conservation programmes at an international level are still in their infancy.
 
At a conference held in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire in May 1999, the conservation status of marine turtles in the region was reviewed, and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) concerning Conservation Measures for Marine Turtles of the Atlantic Coast of Africa was adopted. It covers 26 range states including some European countries i.e. the United Kingdom (on behalf of Ascension Island), Portugal (Azores & Madeira) and Spain (Canary Islands).
 
A detailed Conservation Plan has been developed to accompany the MoU. The objectives of the plan are to improve basic knowledge of species biology and migration routes; reduce direct and indirect causes of marine turtle mortality; engage local communities and others in conservation efforts; enhance co-operation and co-ordination within and among Range States; and secure funding to initiate or continue marine turtle conservation programmes.
 
The UK's signing of the MoU is being considered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). Ascension Island boasts one of the largest green turtle rookeries in the Atlantic and their monitoring and conservation is a priority for this species. Recent genetic studies have estimated that 40% of the Ascension Island green turtle population feed in the Gulf of Guinea at some point during their life-time. Direct harvesting of turtles and by-catch in the rich fisheries of the Gulf of Guinea is therefore considered a substantial threat to Ascension Island population as a whole.
 
JNCC continues to provide up-to-date scientific advice to Defra in relation to this MoU.
 
JNCC attends international symposiums and conferences on marine turtle conservation and biology to be able to advise the CITES group and Defra on all actions regarding marine turtles conservation in UK Overseas Territory and UK waters.
 
February 2010