The findings of a new study on green turtles in the region prove that turtles belong to no single nation, underscoring that all nations have a shared responsibility to protect turtles.
The Emirates Nature-WWF and its partners Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the Marine Research Foundation (MRF) revealed the groundbreaking results of their ongoing research on the Gulf Green Turtle Conservation Project.
The findings are a first-of-a-kind in the Arabian Sea region. Over the past century, green turtle populations have decreased by an overwhelming 50-70 per cent worldwide. Turtles in this region have become extremely vulnerable due to increasing incidental captures in fishing nets, coastal development impacting habitats, and the long-term impact of marine pollution and climate change.
In collaboration with EAD, Emirates Nature-WWF has successfully tagged a total of 36 turtles using satellite transmitters, recently three of these were tracked from their feeding grounds off Bu Tinah Island, Abu Dhabi, and to Oman where they mated, nested, and found their way back home to Bu Tinah Island.
The Ras al Hadd sanctuary in Oman is the favourite nesting site for green turtles in the Indian Ocean, hosting over 80 per cent of all green turtles nesting in the region. Just last year, a green turtle tagged in Oman 21 years ago returned to nest at Ras al Hadd beach. The turtle was tagged on August 21, 1997. The protection and conservation of turtles is of paramount importance in the marine ecosystem and for societal well-being, as it safeguards many other species, supports ecosystems and local industries, the study stated.
Jimena Rodriguez, manager of Gulf Green Turtle Conservation Project, said, “Being long-living animals, turtles are indicators of the status of the marine environment and require long-term strategies that can benefit other animals, habitats, and human well-being. By recording a complete migration loop, we were able to better understand green turtles ecological and conservation needs, and the importance of the UAE as being a critical feeding site. By protecting turtles, we can contribute to greater conservation wins and marine stability in the UAE and the region.”
One of the tracked turtles left Bu Tinah Island in April of 2018 and returned home on December 19, following a perilous eight-month journey. She travelled upwards in the UAE, through Iran, then down south to the coast of Oman, where she mated and nested in the vicinity of Ras al Hadd. Following her voyage, she retraced the same route and returned to the shores of Bu Tinah Island within a month, where she has since remained.
The findings of the study were released on World Turtle Day, marked every year on May 23.