Participants at a community awareness and sensitisation exercise on sea turtles have recommended the monitoring of reptiles’ activities along the operational area of the Lagos Free Zone Company (LFZC) to guide conservation efforts. This, they said, will also impact on livelihood intervention to deter dependence on sea turtle trade and consumption in the communities surrounding the company.
The participants, among whom were traditional and youth leaders, fishermen, traders, partners of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and LFZC, resolved to promote the preservation of endangered sea turtles and reduce the impact of human activities on their population within the LFZC’s operational range and surrounding communities.
The workshop was a consequent of the sea turtle conservation partnership signed between the LFZC and the NCF, series of activities began in December 2022.
The awareness programme had 115 participants drawn from Magbon-Segun, Okesegun, Ilekuru, Okunraye, Lujagba, Idotun and Itoke communities in attendance. Participants were educated on the role sea turtles play in the environment, how human activities have affected their population and the possible conservation actions to mitigate the impact of human activities towards the protection of sea turtles.
Other recommendations by the stakeholders included continuous and consistent engagement with the stakeholders; education and awareness programmes in the surrounding communities to close the identified knowledge gap in order to disabuse the negative perception towards the conservation of the sea turtles; expanding the awareness programme to other stakeholders utilising the shore and the adjacent habitats; and collaboration with the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and other relevant stakeholders on sensitisation within the communities.
Also recommended were advocacy and enactment of laws in collaboration with the appropriate agencies both at community and at state levels; celebrating beach clean-ups and world sea turtle days regularly; research on the roles and intensity of kills by trawlers at industrial levels and locals at community levels; and establishment of a sea turtle research and conservation centre.
The community awareness and sensitisation exercises on sea turtles were aimed at supporting the ecosystem in mitigating the impact of human activities; educating and creating awareness within and beyond the surrounding communities; evaluating the behaviour of stakeholders towards sea turtle conservation; and promoting environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation.
Sea turtles play an important role in maintaining marine and coastal ecosystems. Their ecosystem functions include nutrients recycling, maintaining habitat integrity, maintaining the ecosystem of coastal reefs and coastal dunes. Unfortunately, most species of sea turtles are currently threatened, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The decline in the population of these species is largely due to anthropogenic pressures on the species and its habitats. Activities such as commercial fishing, loss of nesting habitat, pollution, harvesting of their eggs, overfishing, direct hunting of sea turtle for meat contribute to the decline of the species. As their population decline, so does their ability to fulfil vital functions in the marine ecosystems.
Concerns were raised by the attendees included the availability of protein substitutes for sea turtles; livelihood intervention; handling accidental bycatches; accounting for damaged fishing gears; disagreement on the major causes of species decline; myths and beliefs; the roles of large trawlers in the species decline; actions on captured species; compensation for fishers in the case of damaged nets from accidental catch of turtles.
NCF is the foremost environmental NGO in Nigeria dedicated to nature conservation and biodiversity resources management. A key pillar in the 2021-2025 NCF Strategic Action Pillar is “Saving Species in Peril”, designed to rescue and conserve threatened and endangered species like the sea turtle and many others.