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The Network of Sites of Importance for Marine Turtles in the Indian Ocean – South-East Asia Region was formally adopted by the Signatory States to the IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU at their Sixth Meeting, held in Bangkok in 2012; and ten sites were accepted into the Network when it was officially launched in September 2014.

The overarching goal of the Site Network is to promote the long-term conservation of sites of regional and global importance to marine turtles and their habitats. The network serves as a mechanism for sites to operate more cooperatively and synergistically, both ecologically and administratively, rather than working in isolation with minimal coordination. The use of robust criteria to evaluate sites nominated for inclusion in the network aims to prioritise the most critical sites needed to secure the future of marine turtle species/ management units.


Directory of Sites

Site Information Sheets of eight of the ten accepted sites can be viewed, while the other two are still undergoing revisions. Click on the corresponding title to access a PDF containing the full official Site Network proposal.


Europa Island
(France)


Network site since: 11 Sept 2014
Surface area in network: 2,060 sq km

 
Photo credit: Clement Quetel - TAAFEuropa, a small lifted atoll located in the southern Mozambique Channel, is by far the most pristine of the French ‘Îles Éparses'. This uninhabited island is one of the most important sites in the world for green turtle reproduction (between 2,000 and 11,000 nesting females/year) and also an important site for immature hawksbill turtle development in the South-west Indian Ocean (between 20 and 40 individuals/year). The uniquely diverse and pristine seagrass beds, coral reefs, beaches and mangrove habitats are of great importance for these two species.

The site also hosts a wide variety of nesting birds, whose colonies are among the largest in the region. It is a national Natural Reserve and a Ramsar Site, and was identified as a potential UNESCO World Heritage Convention Site. Europa's exceptional state of preservation provides unique opportunities for carrying out research at the site. Here, monitoring of nesting activity began in 1983, and the growth rate and spatial dynamics of juvenile green and hawksbill turtles is being studied since 2005, including through leading satellite tracking programmes. Resources are currently needed to reduce the mortality of marine turtles related to fishing activities in the vicinity of the site; sustain the ongoing nesting turtle track monitoring activities; and complete studies on regional connectivity.

Sheedvar Island (Islamic Republic of Iran)

Network site since: 11 Sept 2014
Surface area in network: 0.97 sq km
 
Sheedvar is a small rocky island located about 9 km off the mainland coast of Iran’s Hormozgan province. Two main areas of sand dunes stretch across the northern and southern parts of the island. Hawksbill turtles regularly nest there; while the surrounding waters offer feeding habitats for green turtles which also nest occasionally. In recent years, research conducted on the island has included monitoring of turtle nesting behaviour, flipper tagging, satellite tracking, and genetic sampling aimed at elucidating the area's marine turtle population structure

In 1999, Sheedvar Island was designated as a “wetland of international importance” under the Ramsar Convention because of its significance as a nesting and resting site for migratory birds – including waterfowl, shorebirds and seabirds. The island is one of the national protected areas under the control of the Department of the Environment, which affords it protection from harmful activities, particularly by keeping the area free of permanent residents. Various public awareness activities undertaken in recent years have helped to familiarise local people with the significance of the site.
 
Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary (Philippines)

Network site since: 11 Sept 2014
Surface area in network: 2,430 sq km
 
Located at the southwestern tip of the Philippines and just 35 km northeast of Sabah, Malaysia, the Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary (TIWS) comprises six coralline islands. More than 400,000 complete nests of (mostly) green and hawksbill turtles were recorded in the TIWS from 1984 to 2013 – an annual average of nearly 14,000 nests. Uninhabited Baguan Island has consistently accounted for about 50% of all clutches laid. The scale of green turtle nesting in the TIWS of regional significance. The sanctuary is also home to a diverse range of other species of flora and fauna.

The Management Plan for the TIWS acknowledges a number of ongoing threats to the marine turtle population, including illegal harvesting of eggs, uncontrolled human population increase, as well as commercial fishing and illegal fishing of unauthorized foreign vessels. A number of measures are being implemented to address these threats. Extensive scientific research activities have also been carried out over the past two decades. The Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary was officially proclaimed as a protected area on 26 August 1999. Before and since that date, the TIWS has inspired a number of international agreements and programmes aimed at strengthening its conservation status through collaboration.
 
Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles)

Network site since: 11 Sept 2014
Surface area in network: 439 sq km
 

Photo credit: Clement Quetel - TAAFAldabra hosts the largest population of nesting green turtles in the Seychelles, with an estimated 9,000 to 15,000 nesting female green turtles every year. Aldabra's long-term status as a protected area has helped the recovery of the nesting green turtle population, with an increase by 500 - 800% between 1968 and 2008. The hawksbill nesting population at Aldabra is much smaller and less well-known. Due to its remote and isolated location, Aldabra Atoll also supports many unique terrestrial species and has the largest population of Giant Tortoises in the world. Aldabra Atoll is also a symbol of cultural pride for the Seychellois.

Aldabra's unique and untouched ecosystem serves as a ‘living laboratory' for scientific research and education. As of 2012, more than 3,350 female green turtles had been flipper-tagged in the atoll. Several conservation measures are in preparation for the site, pending approval. Due to extremely high operational costs associated with operating on Aldabra, additional resources are much needed to sustain the long-term research programme.
 
iSimangaliso Wetland Park (South Africa)

Network site since: 11 Sept 2014
Surface area in network: 1,200 sq km
 
Photo credit: Clement Quetel - TAAFSouth Africa's turtle nesting beaches are located exclusively within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site (iSimangaliso). The site is located on the north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal and comprises both the St. Lucia Marine and the Maputaland Marine Protected Areas. It comprises the main nesting sites for leatherback (70 individuals/year) and loggerhead turtles (700 individuals/year) in the South-west Indian Ocean. These populations are genetically distinct from those of other rookeries of the same species in the Western Indian Ocean. Foraging habitats within the site also support juvenile through adult stage green, hawksbill and possibly even olive ridley turtles. The nesting beaches are fully protected by national legislation and listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Ramsar Sites.

Since 1963, a unique monitoring programme is being conducted on a 60-km stretch of beach. In addition to satellite tracking, genetic sampling, and educational and outreach activities, this intensive programme employs “turtle monitors” from members of the local KwaDapha community to collect nesting data used in population trend analysis. iSimangaliso is one of the only protected areas in South Africa that has local communities on board of its management team. Marine turtles are of high cultural importance for local communities, who also get direct income from turtle-related tourism. Resources are needed to explore the application of newer technologies in the resource intensive turtle monitoring programme.
 
Bu Tinah Shoal (Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.)

Network site since: 11 Sept 2014
Surface area in network: 400 sq km
 

Photo credit: Clement Quetel - TAAFThe Bu Tinah Shoal is located within an established marine protected area, the UNESCO- designated Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve. The shoal and its surrounding waters constitute a core zone within the biosphere reserve within which human activities are limited. The shallow sea around Bu Tinah is characterized by the presence of extensive coral reefs, seaweed beds and seagrass meadows as well as healthy mangrove stands. Apart from marine turtles, these habitats support a significant spectrum of marine life including seabirds and migratory waders, dugongs, commercially important fishes, as well as many species of invertebrates.

The Bu Tinah Shoal supports a high density of foraging green and hawksbill turtles. Conventional flipper tags from green turtles tagged in Oman and in Pakistan have been recovered off Bu Tinah, which emphasizes the regional importance of Bu Tinah as a foraging ground. Hawksbills nest on a one kilometer long stretch of Bu Tinah island, between April and June every year. The Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi has been monitoring marine wildlife and habitats under various research programmes since the year 2000. All these initiatives, which include regular abundance/distribution surveys and satellite tagging, continue as long-term programmes.
 
Sir Bu Na'air (Sharjah, U.A.E.)

Network site since: 11 Sept 2014
Surface area in network: 13,2 sq km
 

Photo credit: Clement Quetel - TAAFExtensive and healthy coral reefs around Sir Bu Na’air Island support a variety of reef fishes and commercial fishes, as well as a few uncommon species. They also serve as foraging habitat for green and hawksbill turtles. The latter nest on all of the island’s sandy beaches, which make up a large part of its 14 km shoreline. Typically more than 300 hawksbill nests are laid every year. This island is also an important site for certain nesting birds.

Sir Bu Na’air Island is administered by the Emirate of Sharjah and managed by the Environment & Protected Areas Authority with the support of the Sharjah Police. Since its proclamation as a protected area, in 2000, only the police and armed forces maintain a permanent presence. Threats to the island’s ecology are limited since most human activity is controlled. However, oil spills and hydrocarbon pollution, as well as a planned tourism project represent potential threats. However, these threats should be controlled through proper planning and paying due respect to EIA and EIS rules and guidelines.
 

Rufiji-Mafia Seascape (United Rep. of Tanzania)

Network site since: 11 Sept 2014
Surface area in network: 3,950 sq km

 

Photo credit: Clement Quetel - TAAFThe Rufiji - Mafia Seascape, south of Dar es Salaam, comprises the Rufiji Delta, Mafia Channel and Mafia Island and is part of the wider Rufiji-Mafia-Kilwa Seascape. It forms an exceptional complex of estuaries, mangrove, coral reefs and marine channel ecosystems in Tanzania, where all five species of marine turtles present in the Western Indian Ocean region have been recorded. Its nesting beaches constitute the country's largest green turtle rookery (about 100 individuals nesting per year, with an increasing trend), in addition to supporting a small number of nesting hawksbill turtles (37 nests recorded in 13 years). The Rufiji Delta is an important foraging site and migratory corridor for green turtles and possibly for the loggerhead, leatherback and olive ridley turtles. The site is a national Marine Protected Area and a Ramsar Site.

Local communities are involved in fisheries management, which integrates marine turtle conservation objectives. Alternative livelihoods to fishing activities are facilitated, such as by employing ten community Conservation Officers to conduct daily patrols of nesting beaches. However, unregulated clearance of mangroves, illegal and destructive fishing practices and current plans for industrial development have the potential to impact foraging habitats. Slaughter and consumption of green turtles, as well as egg collection, was reported to be common in coastal villages but the level of such take remains unquantified. A marine turtle education and public awareness programme is being implemented by a local NGO since 2001. In addition to material needs, there is a need to increase awareness of Tanzanian Fisheries Regulations amongst government authorities.
 
Thameehla Island (Myanmar) *

Network site since: 11 Sept 2014
Surface area in network: < 1 sq km
 

Photo credit: Clement Quetel - TAAFThameehla (Diamond) Island is situated to the west of the Irrawaddy Delta, about 10 km from the mouth of Pathein (Bassein) River. Detailed records from the late 1800s revealed prolific egg production on the island, estimated to be in order of 1.5 to 2 million eggs per annum, for olive ridley and green turtles, respectively. This premiere nesting location was the object of intensive egg harvest for many decades. Over the last century, annual nesting of green turtles – formerly thought to represent some 5,000 or so females – declined to only a few tens of animals per year. Only a handful of olive ridleys still nest on the island.

Dedicated staff of the Department of Fisheries have been working hard to try to reverse this continuing downward trend. In recent years they have had to contend with a major tsunami as well as severe cyclones which damaged the hatchery facilities. In April 2012, an IOSEA training workshop was conducted on Thameehla Island, and equipment was donated to help improve hatchery management practices.

* Final Site Information Sheet is not yet available
 
Itsamia, Mohéli (Comoros) *

Network site since: 11 Sept 2014
Surface area in network: N/A
 

Photo credit: Clement Quetel - TAAFThe Comoros archipelago is located at the northern entrance of the Mozambique Channel, equidistant from Madagascar and the east coast of Africa. A marine park on the southern coast of the island of Mohéli shelters significant biodiversity, including marine turtles, humpback whales and dugong. Several thousand green turtles are estimated to nest each year on the five beaches that constitute the shoreline of Itsamia, at the south-east extremity of the island. The nearby village of Itsamia has benefitted from eco-tourism and alternative livelihood opportunities centered on marine turtles. A specially-organised “Marine Turtle Day” is celebrated each year.

The Association for the Socio-economic Development of Itsamia (ADSEI) strives to ensure sustainable development of the area, while enlisting public support for protection of the environment. Long-term turtle monitoring and research conducted in cooperation with Kélonia, based in La Réunion, has demonstrated the regional importance of Itsamia as a nesting site for green turtles in the SW Indian Ocean.

* Final Site Information Sheet is not yet available


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Click to read the Profile of the Month for May 2016:

Towards operationalising the IOSEA Marine Turtle Site Network

 
Acknowledgements
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