Fresh strategy to save turtles

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Bahrain is taking part in the planning of a new strategy to preserve endangered marine turtles and coral reefs in the Gulf. It will be developed at a regional conference to be held in Abu Dhabi in September, where more than 50 environmental experts from the GCC, Iran and Yemen are expected to attend.

The Environment Friends Society (EFS) will represent Bahrain in the Marine Conservation Forum, organised by Emirates Wildlife Society – World Wildlife Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF) from September 11 to 14.

EFS president Khawla Al Muhannadi said that the society would represent two reports related to marine turtles and marine life in Bahrain as well as efforts to preserve the environment.

“Our main aim is to protect our marine life as we are running with most marine turtles are becoming endangered,” said Ms Al Muhannadi, who will be attending along with board member Emban Al Banna.

“This conference will bring together the best marine experts in the region and we hope to share our experience with others as well as let them in on our progress in Bahrain.”

The first two days of the Marine Conservation Forum will be dedicated to coral reef conservation followed by two days of presentations focused on turtle protection.

Areas of discussion over the four days will include habitats, legal aspects, management, protected areas, population assessment, threat assessments and mitigation strategies. Local conservation efforts in each participating country will be reviewed and best practices assimilated into a Regional Conservation Action Plan.

EWS-WWF director Razan Al Mubarak said that marine turtles and coral reefs play important ecological, economic, recreational and cultural roles.

However, in the Gulf region uncontrolled coastal development, destruction and alteration of turtle nesting habitats, poaching, illegal trade and pollution are having an adverse impact on the marine ecosystem.

“The forum will provide an opportunity for specialists, biologists, conservationists, government agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) from the Gulf, Iran and Yemen to review marine turtle and coral reef research and conservation efforts,” he said.

“It will also aim to assess the status of these species with the objective of creating regional conservation management initiatives and a strategic plan.”

The region’s marine environment is under constant strain and both coral reef and marine turtle populations are at great risk, said EWS-WWF conservation director Dr Frederic Launay.

“It is an opportune time for EWS-WWF to hold this forum to emphasize the value of the environment and the importance of regional co-operation,” he said.

Dr Launay stressed the need for regional co-operation in conservation efforts of both marine turtles and coral reefs.

He said it required multilateral co-operation and agreements as well as commitments of governments sharing these species to guarantee their survival.

Successful development of the eco-tourism sector also requires regional and multilateral co-operation, added Dr Launay.

The main sponsor of the forum is the First Gulf Bank, while co-sponsors are Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) and Total and Dolphin Energy. The courier service provider for the event is DHL – UAE.