KARACHI: A regional plan for turtle conservation has been developed by experts representing five countries, including Pakistan and India, at a recently held meeting of Northern Indian Ocean Marine Turtle Task Force in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Other countries participating in the plan are Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
The Pakistani team was represented by deputy director at the ministry of climate change Samar Hussain Khan and officials of World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-P).
It was the second meeting of the task force set up under the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia. The wildlife department of Sri Lanka hosted the two-day deliberations.
“While a number of issues threatening turtle population in the region came up, a common thread at the discussion was the concern over marine pollution and development activities that have degraded turtle habitats,” Umair Shahid, the manager marine programme at WWF-P, told Dawn.
The other factor highlighted by most participants was incidental bycatch in fisheries practices and ghost nets, which posed a serious threat to turtles, he added.
Participants that also included experts from other countries, he said, had emphasised the need for enhancing regional cooperation among member countries.
“An important outcome of the meeting was the regional action plan developed by member states. The task force suggested that the best practices from other countries should be adopted. They also committed on effective enforcement of relevant legislations, reducing turtle mortality and collaborative research initiatives, including satellite and flipper tagging and genetic studies of turtle species,” he pointed out.
According to Mr Shahid, there were recommendations (in the meeting) to discourage the use of plastic in communities, create awareness of the subject and promote sustainable livelihood opportunities for local fishermen for their active engagement in turtle conservation activities.
The participants, he said, were also made aware of efforts went into the memorandum of understanding, which had been signed by 35 countries with an aim to work together for conservation and management of marine turtles and their habitats.
“Meetings such as this one allow exchange of scientific data and experiences. Heidrun Frisch-Nwakanma, the Indian Ocean-South East Asian Marine Turtle MoU coordinator, encouraged the task force to start thinking about the turtle sites that need to be protected.”
The Pakistani team, he said, talked about the relevant laws and the sites declared protected for turtle conservation.
The next meeting of the task force will be held in Bangladesh next year.
Other participants included Channa Suraweera, assistant director of Marine Department of Wildlife Conservation, Sri Lanka; Ibrahim Naeem representing the Maldives; Dr Manjula Tiwari, a research scientist at the Marine Turtle Ecology and Assessment Programme in USA; Dr Mohiuddin, joint secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forests, Bangladesh; Muralidharan, Field Director at Dakshin Foundation, India; Dr Lalith Ekanayake, Chairman Bio Conservation Society, Sri Lanka; Rosalind Mary Kernan Bown, a researcher and Dr Andrea Phillott, a professor of environmental studies at FLAME University, India.
Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2018