The Lagos Free Zone Company (LFZC) and Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) have begun activities to promote endangered sea turtle conservation. The effort will reduce the impact of human activities on their population within the operational range and surrounding communities around the LFZC.
Coming under the community awareness and sensitisation exercises aimed to support the ecosystem in mitigating the impact of human activities; educate and create awareness within and beyond the surrounding communities; evaluate the behaviour of stakeholders towards sea turtle conservation; and promote environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation.
Sea turtles play an important role in maintaining marine and coastal ecosystems. Their ecosystem functions include nutrients recycling, maintaining habitat integrity, maintaining the ecosystem of coastal reefs and coastal dunes.
Unfortunately, most species of sea turtles are currently threatened according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The decline in the population of these species is largely owing to anthropogenic pressures on the species and its habitats. Activities such as commercial fishing, loss of nesting habitat, pollution, harvesting of their eggs, overfishing, direct hunting of sea turtle for meat all contribute to the decline of the species. As their population decline, so does their ability to fulfil vital functions in the marine ecosystems.
MEANWHILE, an awareness programme took place at Magbon-Segun hall, Okunraye Baale’s House, and Idotun Hall with 115 participants drawn from Magbon – Segun, Okesegun, Ilekuru, Okunraye, Lujagba, Idotun and Itoke communities.
Participants were educated on the role sea turtles play in the environment, how human activities have affected their population and the possible conservation actions to mitigate the impact of human activities towards the protection of sea turtles.
Among concerns raised by the attendees are availability of protein substitutes for sea turtles; livelihood intervention; handling accidental bycatches; accounting for damaged fishing gears; disagreement on the major causes of species decline; myths and beliefs; the roles of large trawlers in the species decline; actions on captured species; compensation for fishers in the case of damaged nets from accidental catch of turtles.
The participants recommended continuous and consistent engagement with the stakeholders, education and awareness programmes in the surrounding communities to close the identified knowledge gap, This, according to them, will disabuse the negative perception towards conservation of the sea turtles; monitoring of sea turtle activities along the LFZC operational areas to guide conservation efforts; livelihood intervention to deter dependence on sea turtle trade, as well as consumption in the communities surrounding the company.
Others are expanding the awareness programme to other stakeholders utilising the shore and the adjacent habitats, for instance, trawlers association.