Marine biodiversity: The fight to preserve turtles and seabirds

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Marine biodiversity: The fight to preserve turtles and seabirds

The marine ecosystem comprises a wide variety of species that contribute to its biodiversity. As is often the case with man’s fishing activities, some of these species have either been killed or badly injured, bringing adverse effects on the marine community.

Recently, Senegal-based organizations and institutions — including the Regional Partnership for Coastal and Marine Conservation in West Africa (PRCM) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) — called on West African decision-makers to strengthen their regulatory measures so as to reduce the incidental capture of turtles and seabirds by fishing vessels.

The six organizations and institutions acted under the Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds and Sea Turtles in West African Industrial Fisheries (Bycatch) project which is funded by the Mava Foundation and coordinated by BirdLife International which is one of the world’s largest conservation partnerships with over 10 million members and supporters.

The issues

According to estimates by the organization, about 300,000 sea turtles and 700,000 seabirds die yearly in fishing nets. This in turn threatens marine biodiversity.

This situation has become of great concern in West African fisheries because seabirds and sea turtles are major contributors to marine biodiversity and industrial fishing activities have become a threat to their existence.

Seabirds serve as links to marine and terrestrial ecosystems because they live on land but look for food at sea. They also function as indicators of the condition of their marine habitats, because they combine the effects of abiotic stressors that act on lower trophic levels.

For their part, sea turtles play an important part in their environment and influence other species around them. Their removal from a habitat can disrupt natural order which in turn will impact other wildlife and fauna in different ways.

Operation Bycatch project

These accidental captures of turtles and seabirds are avoidable because mechanisms and technical means exist that could help in avoiding these incidences.

Through the Bycatch project, the incidental catches of birds and sea turtles in industrial fisheries are regularly processed with the help of a network of trained and equipped observers in the different countries of the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission (SRFC).

The Bycatch project was launched in 2017 as a way to protect marine biodiversity while addressing the issue of by-catch of seabirds and sea turtles in industrial fisheries in the region.

This is done by proposing technical and legal solutions, and it has the objective of establishing an operational framework for the reduction of Bycatch of birds and sea turtles in industrial fisheries in West Africa while also implementing it in seven countries of the region, including the Republic of Guinea, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, the Gambia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.

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