Protected areas proposed for hawksbill sea turtle nesting period on Seychelles’ main island
The Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS) is proposing the setting-up of protected areas on the main island of Mahe to shield the hawksbill sea turtle during nesting periods from September 1 to March 31, a top official said on Wednesday.
Christophe Mason-Parker, the chief executive of MCSS, told SNA that a nomination file is being prepared and will be sent to the Cabinet of Ministers for approval.
Mason-Parker said the temporal protected areas under the Ridge to Reef seek to “reduce the disturbance to the turtles when they are nesting. This will be for the period they are nesting, especially during the day.”
The specific beaches and nearshore areas that MCSS, together with the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Energy, are nominating for seasonal protection are all in the south of Mahe.
These beaches include: Anse Intendance, Anse Cachée, Anse Corail, Anse Bazarca, Anse Petit Police and Anse Grand Police.They represent over 80 percent of the turtle nesting activity on Mahe recorded by MCSS.
The nomination of these beaches as temporal protected areas will follow the enactment of the Nature Reserves and Conservancy Act, which makes specific provisions for seasonally protected areas. Following this, appropriate regulations and management plans will be drafted and the public consulted accordingly.
The Society has been monitoring turtle nesting activity on Mahe since 2003. The data obtained over the years from this long-term monitoring programme has indicated some of the most important beaches for nesting of the hawksbill and green turtle in Seychelles.
MCSS project leader conducting training with a school group. (Marine Conservation Society Seychelles) Photo License: CC-BY
Both species are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. While the green turtle is classified as endangered, the hawksbill is classified as critically endangered which is given to species facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
This is why to improve conservation efforts of these marine protected species, MCSS has conceptualised and tested an innovative approach to the management of these critical habitats.
Over the course of the project, MCSS will continue its monitoring, research and rehabilitation activities, as well as its public education and awareness campaign on sea turtles and their role as important indicators of the health of our oceans.
Currently, six of the world’s seven sea turtle species are currently on the IUCN’s Red List due to the multitude of human threats that they face and these include poaching, entanglement, pollution, habitat loss, coastal development, bycatch and climate change among others.
Sea turtles are found throughout the world’s oceans due to their migratory behaviour and spend their entire lives at sea, apart from when mature females come ashore several times a season every two to five years to lay an egg clutch of between 50 to 200 eggs, depending on the species of sea turtle. Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 1 in 1000 turtle hatchlings survive to maturity.