Development of a community-based marine turtle conservation program

E. Aruna, Reptile and Amphibian Program – Sierra Leone
Published: 12 May 2016
Last edited: 23 February 2017
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Summary

This solution addresses the killing of sea turtles, egg poaching and the unawareness on their importance in Sierra Leone. To reduce the killing of turtles, local fishermen receive materials to repair nets destroyed by turtle entanglements. Additionally, locals are supporting the surveillance of nesting beaches and by-catch. To raise awareness towards the importance of biodiversity, education materials are produced and distributed during seminars and workshops held with community leaders.

Classifications

Region
West and Central Africa
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Beach
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Open sea
Theme
Fisheries and aquaculture
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 3: Incentives reformed
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 18: Traditional knowledge

Location

Freetown, Western Area, Sierra Leone | Coastal areas of Sierra Leone

Challenges

Marine turtle species in Sierra Leone are facing threats including accidental by-catch, sand mining, ornamental use of carapaces, consumption of meat and eggs as sources of protein, construction at nesting sites, loss of nesting beaches to erosion, weak laws protecting wildlife, unawareness about the wildlife laws and insufficient education/sensitization about threatened and endangered species.

Beneficiaries

The protection and conservation of the five marine turtle species including the green turtle, hawksbill, olive ridley, leatherback and loggerhead, that occur in Sierra Leone.

How do the building blocks interact?

1. Community involvement in data collection has helped in stopping or moderating the killing of turtles and the poaching of turtle eggs, provided information on the number of turtles captured in the artisanal fisheries, species that are mostly caught, species that nest on beaches in Sierra Leone and the rate at which the species are caught or nest on beaches. It has also helped in building the data collecting capacity of Monitors. 2. Information and communication of biodiversity matters has helped to raise the awareness of locals about biodiversity matters, in which locals have learned or known about endangered species and laws protecting them. This awareness has contributed to the protection of turtles. In most communities locals no longer kill or collect turtle eggs. 3. Communication, outreach and awareness: results of community meetings with the involvement of government personnel and staff of other NGOs have helped in the dissemination of conservation messages or information to the various coastal communities. The disseminated messages have contributed to the non-killing and collection of turtles eggs and helped raised the general awareness of locals.

Impacts

The involvement of locals in data collection and their participation in awareness raising activities results in a higher consciousness in most communities about sea turtles. Once locals see or capture a turtle, they report to the beach or bycatch monitors for the collection of data. Data collected may include turtle species, length, breadth and tag number. Once the data is collected the turtle will be released if it is alive. If the animal is dead, community members help in burying it since there is a local law prohibiting the killing of turtles. The surveillance of nesting beaches has helped in controlling the poaching of eggs and resulted in increasing numbers of turtle offspring (hatchlings) released. The provision of rolls of threads to fishers whose nets are torn by turtles, payment of stipends to turtle-observers (mainly youths) and fishers from the local communities as well as implementing community development projects that address the general needs of the communities have also contributed to the sea turtle conservation efforts. The production of education material with a focus on conservation and the installation of billboards with information and photos have helped to raise awareness among locals.

Story

In Sierra Leone, five marine turtle species are known to occur in the country’s Atlantic coast. The five species include the leatherback, olive ridley, green turtle, loggerhead and hawksbill. All five have been recorded to nest on beaches in Sierra Leone. Leatherbacks are known to nest on beaches in the Turtle and Sherbro Islands, and the Turners Peninsula. The Sherbro Island beach is about 52 km and continues to host the largest population of nesting leatherbacks in Sierra Leone based past nest monitoring results. For the monitoring of nesting beaches and bycatches, the marine turtle conservation effort hires locals from the coastal communities annually. Presently, the Reptile and Amphibian Program – Sierra Leone (RAP-SL) is engaging more than 54 monitors that conduct nesting beach and bycatch monitoring along selected coastal communities. Since 2008, the marine turtle conservation program in Sierra Leone has recorded a total of 750 marine turtle nests on beaches so far monitored. These nests resulted in the release of about 38,118 hatchlings while the bycatch monitoring has recorded around 1,000 turtles. Sierra Leone has well over 70 major coastal settlements. Fishing is the main activity of coastal communities and about 90% of the estimated 6 million people rely on coastal fisheries for protein supplies. The influx of foreign vessels and other fishers who export about 90% of their catch has impacted the country’s fish stock. This situation, in addition to the limited education/sensitization about laws (both national and international) protecting endangered species and their habitats as well as the non-enforcement of laws have resulted in the exploitation of marine turtles and many other threatened/endangered species within coastal areas that are not covered by the marine turtle conservation effort in Sierra Leone. However, the involvement of locals has been considered as a key factor for conservation success. The community development activities have included the provision of water supply facility for nine island and some main land communities, construction of schools and community centers, supplying of school materials to schools, and assisting students with fees; providing solar electricity in two primary schools and supplying then computers and solar lanterns.These activities have shown that collaborations with the coastal communities and fishers will not only minimize threats faced by marine turtles but also enhance marine turtle data collection.

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Edward Aruna Reptile and Amphibian Program – Sierra Leone

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Reptile and Amphibian Program – Sierra Leone