23. May 2019 — Press Release
23.05.2019 — خبر صحفى

In celebration of World Turtle Day, Emirates Nature-WWF and EAD reveal pioneering results of ongoing 4-year Gulf Green Turtle Conservation Project

  • The Gulf Green Turtle Conservation Project successfully tracked sea turtles from their feeding grounds off Bu Tinah Island to their nesting sites in Oman and back to their home in UAE; a first of a kind discovery in the region
  • The project’s findings prove that turtles belong to no single nation, underscoring that all nations have a shared responsibility to protect them
  • New project data will be integrated into wider marine management and planning agendas in the UAE
Gulf Green Turtle Conservation Project

May 23rd, 2019 – Abu Dhabi, UAE: Marking the occasion of World Turtle Day, 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, and one of only a handful of similar efforts worldwide.

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, all the way to Oman where they mated, nested, and found their way back home to Bu Tinah Island. The project’s findings have proven that turtles belong to no single nation, underscoring that all nations have a shared responsibility to protect turtles and cohesively manage the seas in which they inhabit.

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, such as fishing and tourism.

Jimena Rodriguez, Manager of the Gulf Green Turtle Conservation Project at Emirates Nature-WWF 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 wellbeing. 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 region.”

Emirates Nature-WWF, alongside local and international partners, are developing a robust regional baseline of green turtles’ ecological and conservational needs, thereby applying science-based solutions to safeguard their survival, which contributes to a wider marine protection and planning agenda.

H.E Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Acting Secretary General of EAD, stated in respect of the findings: “The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding Father of the UAE, was considered one of the world’s greatest conservationists. The marine environment, in particular, held an emotional value to him. He considered it a treasured part of our heritage, our present and our future. Since its establishment, EAD has worked to preserve Sheikh Zayed’s environmental legacy and we will continue to do so.”

“Our past species monitoring efforts have demonstrated that we have a large population of Green Turtles foraging in Abu Dhabi’s waters but we had no record of them nesting here. Following the findings of this project, we will implement conservation initiatives, protecting where the turtles nest and forage. Green turtles and their habitats are a regional treasure that we must work together to protect,” Dr. Al Dhaheri added.

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, a well-known green turtle nesting site hosting over 80% of all green turtles nesting in the region. 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.

Aimed at supporting marine integrated planning and development in the UAE and across the region, the Gulf Green Turtle Conservation Project provides scientific insights to support key local management plans, maritime planning, and development processes. This is important as the protection of Green Turtle populations has wide ranging impacts on the broader marine ecosystem, including healthy corals, seagrasses, mangroves, and other marine life, all of which sustain the wellbeing of society and those who rely on the sea.

Kick-started in May 2016, the Gulf Green Turtle Conservation Project continues to provide insightful data on the population, distribution and behavior of marine turtles and their habitats to identify migratory routes and Important Turtle Areas (ITAs) for conservation.

Laila Mostafa Abdullatif, Director General of Emirates Nature-WWF said, “I am thrilled by this new discovery that our expert team, alongside our dedicated partners, has made. Contributing to the wider socio-economic development of the country and showcasing the human, ecological and economic benefits of conserving the marine environment, the Gulf Green Turtle project is a true testament to the vital need of partnerships, which strive to conserve the environment and encourage the community to live in harmony with nature and its many unique and diverse species.”

The effective protection and management of the species is important not only to maintain the island’s ecological integrity, but also to bolster the capacity of marine ecosystems in the UAE and the region.

Over the past century, Green Turtle populations have decreased by an overwhelming 50-70% 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.

To learn more, download the infographic here.