On 17 October IOSEA Coordinator, Douglas Hykle, travelled to Myanmarĺs capital Naypyidaw to conclude another chapter of IOSEAĺs cooperation with the Department of Fisheries. Accompanied by IOSEA Focal Point U Maung Maung Lwin, Mr. Hykle met with Director-General U Khin Ko Lay, who has long been a supporter of the Departmentĺs marine turtle conservation efforts, having personally attended an IOSEA Signatory State meeting in Oman in 2006.
The purpose of the visit was to discuss recommendations contained in an expert report prepared by Dr. Colin Limpus (IOSEA Advisory Committee member) earlier in the year. The occasion was also used to deliver essential equipment needed for field monitoring and to explore other possible avenues of support to Myanmar.
The immediate challenges that need to be addressed in Myanmar include sub-optimal performance of hatcheries, insufficient capacity to monitor remote sites, incidental capture in fisheries, and illegal taking of eggs in some areas.
Dr. Limpus’ report drew attention to the alarming decline in the number of green and olive ridley turtles nesting on Thameehla (Diamond) Island, based on a comparison of current data and century-old records. While conducting a training workshop on the island last April, Dr. Limpus determined that a lack of shading in the local hatchery was contributing to a strong bias towards production of female hatchlings and, in the worst case, a significant percentage of egg loss. The original hatchery shading was destroyed by cyclone Nargis in 2008 and had not been replaced. A shortage of some basic equipment needed for field work was also noted.
In response, the IOSEA Secretariat procured a number of robust data loggers and readers, waterproof GPS units and extra flipper tag applicators which are now destined for use at 3-4 primary field stations. It is expected that the hatchery temperatures will be optimised during the current nesting season, with the installation of new shading, and hopefully will result in significantly higher hatching success.
It is clear that more substantial funding will be needed to develop a more comprehensive national sea turtle conservation programme, and other avenues for external support were discussed. In the meanwhile, the Secretariat will be exploring with the Department of Fisheries and Dr. Limpus the possibility of offering short-term field training to a young DoF officer with the aim of ensuring continuity in Myanmar’s long-standing marine turtle conservation efforts. So, while one chapter of IOSEA assistance has closed, another page may be opened in the near future.
All of the support offered to Myanmar to date has been made possible by an initial grant from the United States Marine Turtle Conservation Fund for the operation of the IOSEA Technical Support and Capacity-building Programme. The case of Myanmar has been exemplary and fulfilling in many respects. The country is one of the earliest signatories to IOSEA, it has a highly dedicated and active Focal Point in the person of U Maung Maung Lwin, and it has even made regular contributions to the IOSEA Trust Fund. The Department of Fisheries submitted a sound proposal requesting technical support from IOSEA and it followed through with its own important logistical contributions to the excellent training workshop held in March/April 2012. Other IOSEA Signatory States are encouraged to follow Myanmar’s good example and take advantage of the support that is available.
Bangkok, October 2012