THE Lagos Free Zone Company (LFZC) and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) have commenced sensitisation of coastal communities on sea turtle’s conservation.
This follows to the sea turtle conservation partnership signed between the duo last year.
According to the NCF’s Communications Manager, Oladapo Soneye, in a statement, the ultimate vision of these activities was to promote the preservation of endangered sea turtles and reduce the impact of human activities on their population within the operational range and surrounding communities around the LFZC.
He added that the community awareness and sensitization exercises on sea turtles that were embarked on aimed to support the ecosystem in mitigating the impact of human activities; educate and create awareness within and beyond the surrounding communities; evaluate the behavior 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 due to anthropogenic pressures on the species and its habitats.
Activities such as commercial fishing, loss of nesting habitat, pollution, harvesting of their eggs, overfishing and direct hunting of sea turtles for food have been adduced by environmentalists as some of the factors contributing to the decline of the species.
As their population decline, so does their ability to fulfil vital functions in the marine ecosystems.
Speaking about the awareness programmes, the NCF’s spokesperson said it 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.
According to him, participants were educated on the role sea turtles play in the environment, how human activities had affected their population and the possible conservation actions to mitigate the impact of human activities towards the protection of sea turtles.
He explained that some of the concerns raised by the attendees included the availability of protein substitutes for sea turtles; livelihood intervention; handling accidental catches; 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.
Soneye said that stakeholders at the various fora recommended continuous and consistent engagement with people, education and awareness programmes in the surrounding communities to close the identified knowledge gap.
According to them, this would disabuse the negative perception towards the conservation of the sea turtles and monitoring of sea turtle activities along the LFZC operational areas to guide conservation efforts.
Besides, he said it would promote livelihood intervention to deter dependence on sea turtle trade and consumption in the communities surrounding the Lagos Free Zone Company; expanding the awareness program to other stakeholders utilizing the shore and the adjacent habitats; collaboration with the Lagos state ministry of environment and other relevant stakeholders on sensitization within the communities; and advocacy and enactment of laws in collaboration with the appropriate agencies both at community and at state levels.
“It will promote celebration of beach clean-ups and world sea turtle days regularly; research on the roles and intensity of kills by trawlers at industrial levels and locals at community levels; and establishment of a sea turtle research and conservation center,” he said.
Among the participants of the awareness program were traditional leaders, youth leaders, representatives and partners, fishermen, traders among others.
NCF is the foremost environmental NGO in Nigeria dedicated to nature conservation and biodiversity resources management.
ALSO READ FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE