The international ‘Year of the Turtle - 2006’ campaign kicked off today with a colourful launch at the Siam Ocean World aquarium in Bangkok.
With an impressive backdrop of sharks, sting rays and a myriad of marine fish, the IOSEA Secretariat in partnership with the Thai Department of Marine and Environment Resources (DMCR), declared the Year of the Turtle officially open. Well over 150 guests were in attendance.
Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado of Japan was introduced as an Honorary Patron of the Year of the Turtle campaign, and a moving statement was read on her behalf. Although unable to attend the launch personally, Princess Takamado expressed her deep appreciation for the marine environment. She noted that sea turtles are many things to many people: a traditional source of food, the basis of livelihoods centred on sustainable tourism, the focus of investigative research, or simply an enduring source of inspiration and awe.
She drew attention to many of the conservation issues that need to be acted on in the coming months, including work to reduce by-catch of turtles and other marine life, as well as the need to protect critical habitats. “Much needs to be done, and I hope that the Year of the Turtle campaign will inspire fishing fleets to take measures to prevent by-catch and communities to take action to improve their coastal environments”, she said.
Speeches from the IOSEA Coordinator, Mr Douglas Hykle, and Dr. Maitree Duangsawasdi, Director-General of DMCR, touched on the breadth of the conservation initiatives that, if acted on collectively, would help ensure a future for sea turtles.
Many awareness-raising events were already under way and planned during the campaign in Thailand and across the vast Indian Ocean – South-East Asia region.
Guests also heard from former Miss Thailand, Ms. Cindy Bishop (nee Burbridge) who graciously acted as Master of Ceremonies. Ms. Bishop, who is a popular Thai celebrity, told the audience of her love of the ocean through scuba diving and of the unforgettable moment when she first saw a sea turtle as a young girl, diving with her father. “I squeezed my Dad’s hand and my diving mask nearly filled with tears of happiness”.
Local primary school students participated in the launch, helping Mr. Hykle to unveil an attractive IOSEA Year of the Turtle poster, which will be widely distributed to help promote the YoT campaign. The students, led by Siam Ocean World educational staff, learned about sea turtles and enthusiastically created new turtle art masterpieces!
A number of turtle displays and educational stands set up for the day were very popular with both students and guests alike, providing stimulus for conversation as guests were served refreshments. The giant leatherback turtle model was especially popular with the students.
Thanks to the generosity of Siam Ocean World, guests were free to wander through the aquarium and learn more about the fascinating marine environment that is home for sea turtles.
Guests left the launch with smiles on their faces and their arms full of Year of the Turtle paraphernalia, including the popular Year of the Turtle calendar, the new poster and a special limited edition T Shirt - ready to tell the rest of the world about the beginning of this exciting campaign.
The IOSEA Secretariat is grateful to everyone who was able to come and help launch the campaign in Bangkok. A special thank you goes to our launch partners, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and to our hosts, Siam Ocean World for making this such successful start to the YoT campaign.
The next major event on the IOSEA calendar is the Fourth Meeting of the Signatory States, being held for the first time in Muscat, Oman, from 11-14 March 2006. Apart from the serious business of reviewing implementation of the MoU’s Conservation and Management Plan, the meeting will hear about Year of the Turtle plans across the region.
Click for text of UNEP Press Release issued on 1 March 2006
Click for text of the statement of Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado of Japan