Us Ambassador Launches National Sea Turtle Strategy
Date Published: 03 Mar, 2011
A satellite tagged green turtle released on the beach in Kiwayu, Kiunga Marine National Reserve. (Photo Courtesy:WWF)
US Ambassador HE Michael Ranneberger launch Kenya’s national sea turtle conservation strategy on Friday March 4, 2011 at the Malindi Marine National Park beach.
The strategy provides a coordinated framework for the conservation of sea turtles in Kenya and guides efforts in conservation and management of sea turtles and their habitats. The main tools to be used in the strategy include advocacy, communication, education, public awareness, targeted research and monitoring, and threats mitigation.
Ultimately, the strategy includes wider participation of the local communities and other stakeholders, including scientists, government and non-governmental institutions. The strategy builds on ongoing efforts and initiates changes that will add value to sea turtle conservation efforts. The strategy is also aligned to international and regional conservation conventions and agreements. It also contributes to the Vision 2030 development blueprint, which recognises tourism as a major sector towards economic empowerment and to the increasing international value of eco-tourism in relation to species conservation.
Five species of sea turtles are found in Kenya; the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) nest and forage in Kenya while the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) use Kenya’s waters as migratory routes and foraging grounds.
The cultural and socio-economic values of sea turtles drive illegal harvesting of sea turtles for meat, oil and eggs. Degradation of sea turtle habitats is also a major threat. The most exploited species’ include the green turtle, the olive ridley and the hawksbill. Sea turtles also face the most critical threat from fisheries through incidental capture in set gillnets and trawl nets. These fishing gears cause either drowning through entanglement or sea turtles are opportunistically harvested by the fishermen.
Additionally, other threats include loss and degradation of nesting and foraging grounds from coastal developments, pollution from land based sources, marine debris, oil spills, oil and gas exploration, predation of hatchlings and juveniles, diseases and emerging threats related to climate change.
Due to their unique ecology and migratory nature, the myriad of threats sea turtles face has led to drastic global population declines. Two of the species using Kenya’s territorial waters are listed as critically endangered while three are listed as endangered.
Effective management and recovery of Kenya’s sea turtle populations can only be achieved through implementation of the national strategy that links into regional and international initiatives to protect nesting beaches and critical foraging habitats from degradation, eliminate illegal harvesting and trade in sea turtles and their products, mitigate fisheries impacts, and enhance collaborative participation of local communities and other stakeholders in conservation.
The Kenya Wildlife Service and the Fisheries Department both have mandate over the conservation and management of sea turtles, and their habitats in Kenya’s territorial waters.
Previous conservation efforts have focused on terrestrial environments for which national strategies for rhinos, lions, hyenas, cheetahs, wild dogs and Grevy’s zebra have been developed while those for elephants, bongo and giraffes are in progress.