KARACHI: Sea turtles have survived for millions of years but they now face the threat of extinction, therefore the need for their conservation cannot be emphasised more.
This was stated by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Pakistan Technical Adviser for Marine Fisheries Muhammad Moazzam Khan on the occasion of World Sea Turtle Day on Friday. WWF-Pakistan called on all key stakeholders to take necessary action for the conservation of the globally declining population of sea turtles.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, three species of sea turtles – olive ridley, loggerhead and leatherback – are ranked as ‘vulnerable’, while green and hawksbill turtles are classified as ‘endangered’ and ‘critically endangered’ respectively.
Although there is evidence that the population of green turtles has increased in Pakistan, no authentic records of olive ridley turtle nests have been observed since 2012. Studies carried out by WWF-Pakistan, however, have confirmed that a substantially large population of olive ridley turtles exist in offshore waters of the country.
Khan pointed out that in addition to entanglement in fishing gears, sea turtles are facing a number of other threats, which include habitat degradation, loss of nesting areas, uncontrolled predation on hatchlings by feral animals, pollution – especially from plastic – and illegal trade, among others.
He urged key stakeholders to join hands to strengthen efforts for the protection of the sea turtle population of Pakistan.
Meanwhile, according to WWF-Pakistan Senior Director of Programmes Rab Nawaz the satellite tracking of green turtles, initiated by WWF-Pakistan in the past, has revealed that they migrate long distances in the Arabian Sea. However, migration patterns of olive ridely turtles and other turtle species have not been understood, Nawaz said.
WWF-Pakistan plans to start satellite tracking of other turtle species so that appropriate management measures can be taken for their conservation, he said, emphasising that all relevant organisations, including non-governmental organisations, need to take effective measures for the protection of sea turtles.