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Turtle Conservation in Akassa: Poor fishing practices hurting marine life

Lately, more turtles have been found dead and washed ashore along the Akassa coastal areas. Locals complain that many of the turtles suffered entanglement in nets used fishing trawlers.

The turtle conservation centre has complained that poor fishing practices are causing marine mammal entanglement and trawlers are deliberately cutting off sea turtles that enter their net during dragging, instead of releasing the turtles appropriately.

The turtles hardly survive when their flippers are cut in the process of the net dragging. Without care, they are returned back into the water. Each time the entanglement happens, each time it injures the flippers, they just continue to cut until the turtle die. When such turtles are lucky or unlucky to be found by fishermen who do not understand the importance of marine life conservation, they take them for meals.

Raynus Ebiegberi, the conservationist in charge of the centre in Akassa, Bayelsa, found at least three very large marine turtles that had suffered same fate of having their flippers deeply cut.

“I have counted three dead turtles in the last three months,” Ebiegberi said. “But each turtle that dies reduces the population of sea turtles. If you identify one turtle today, it is significant because you want to know what led to its death. And if it is as a result of a fishing trawler, you can then imagine how many of the turtles would be found in the sea that you may not be able to identify. These ones just floated to the shoreline where you can see it. What about the ones that sank and didn’t float. It is a bad story for us at such times.”

He believes that a stakeholders’ meeting involving the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the trawler owners would be step in the right direction to speaking with one voice, in efforts to save the turtles.

The Nesting Areas?

The turtle nesting areas have been really disturbed by economic activities like the regular fish markets by the beach areas. The three Islands; Cape Formosa (eastern Island), the Central Island, and the Fish Town Island, each has long beaches attached to them. They are nesting grounds for green turtles and the leatherback. But the Central Island has more of the nesting area (where there is the turtle beach). The viewing center is built there, and in some areas the beach distance is more than others.

“Where the coastal communities carry out activities, the beaches are very busy, except when the tide is covering the sandy areas. And noise from the bike scares the turtles from the area.  The three islands are damaged by erosion and others by economic activities,” Ebiegberi said.

Meanwhile, the centre has discovered a new beach where thousands of birds were found sleeping in one place. They also saw thousands of white crabs in the same location.

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