Lifeline for sea turtles

Posted: 23 January 2003

Marine turtles in South East Asia and the Indian Ocean stand to benefit from a new international agreement designed to ensure their long-term survival.

Representatives from 20 governments gathered in Bangkok in January for the first meeting of the states which have signed up to the agreement on the conservation and management of marine turtles and their habitats in the region.

Six species of marine turtles found in the region's waters are threatened by accidental capture in industrial fishing operations, as well as unsustainable harvesting at nesting sites and in near-shore waters.

Destruction of nesting beaches from inappropriate coastal development is also a major threat. The need to better coordinate conservation efforts has led governments to sign up to the new agreement developed under the auspices of the Convention on Migratory Species, an international treaty linked to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer described the meeting as historic."Countries of the region are now committed to work together to ensure the future of one of the most charismatic inhabitants of our marine environment."

They will aim to reduce threats, conserve critical habitat, exchange scientific data, increase public awareness and participation, promote regional cooperation and seek resources for implementation.

The agreement is designed to reverse the decline in populations of loggerhead, olive ridley, green, hawksbill, leatherback and flatbackturtles and the management plan contains 24 programmes and 105 specific activities.