LFZC, NCF collaborate to save sea turtles

In preserving sea turtles, the Lagos Free Zone Company (LFZC) and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) have begun sensitisation processes of coastal communities on sea turtles’ conservation.

This started on Monday in Lagos following the signing of a memorandum last year between the partners.

The NCF’s Communications Manager, Oladapo Soneye, in a statement, said the ultimate vision of these activities was to promote the preservation of endangered sea turtles and reduce the impact of human activities on their population within the operational range and surrounding communities around the LFZC.

Soneye said the community awareness and sensitization exercises on sea turtles that were embarked on aimed to support the ecosystem in mitigating the impact of human activities adding that to educate and create awareness within and beyond the surrounding communities and to evaluate the behaviour of stakeholders towards sea turtle conservation, by 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 (IUCN).

‘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 and direct hunting of sea turtles for food have been adduced by environmentalists as some of the factors contributing to the decline of the species.

“As their population declines, so does their ability to fulfill vital functions in the marine ecosystems,” he stated.

Creating awareness and mitigation programmes, the NCF’s spokesperson stated that sensitization which took place at Magbon-Segun hall, Okunraye Baale’s house, and Idotun hall with 115 participants drawn from Magbon-Segun, Okesegun, Ilekuru, Okunraye, Lujagba, Idotun and Itoke communities.

Soneye revealed that the participants were educated on the role sea turtles play in the environment, how human activities had affected their population and the possible conservation actions to mitigate the impact of human activities towards the protection of sea turtles.

He further explained that some of the concerns raised by the attendees included the availability of protein substitutes for sea turtles. Adding that livelihood intervention handled accidental catche which accounted for damage of fishing gears, disagreement on the major causes of species decline and myths and beliefs.

According to the NCF’s Communications Manager, the roles of large trawlers in the species decline, actions on captured species and compensation for fishers in the case of damaged nets from accidental catch of turtles.

Soneye said that stakeholders at the various fora recommended continuous and consistent engagement with people, education and awareness programmes in the surrounding communities to close the identified knowledge gap.

This would disabuse the negative perception towards the conservation of the sea turtles and monitoring of sea turtle activities along the LFZC operational areas to guide conservation efforts.

“It would promote livelihood intervention to deter dependence on sea turtle trade and consumption in the communities surrounding the Lagos Free Zone Company, and expand the awareness program to other stakeholders utilizing the shore and the adjacent habitats; collaboration with the Lagos state ministry of environment and other relevant stakeholders on sensitization within the communities.

“And advocacy and enactment of laws in collaboration with the appropriate agencies both at community and at state levels.

“It will promote celebration of 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,” he said

However, the participants of the awareness program were traditional leaders, youth leaders, representatives and partners, fishermen, traders among others.