29-09-2020 di redazione
It all began in 1997 when a group of local residents from Watamu decided it was time to take action to protect sea turtles in the area and Watamu Turtle Watch was born. Fast forward to today, 21 years later, and Local Ocean Conservation have evolved to address more of the challenges faced by our local ocean.
Local Ocean Conservation (LOC) has gone from being a small sea turtle conservation group to a diverse marine conservation organisation, centred around a holistic approach to marine conservation. With Sea Turtle conservation remaining as our flagship programme because they are known to be a top marine indicator species. And a healthy marine environment is essential for the survival of all ocean species and much more.
For many years, turtles have been seen - albeit illegally- as food as well as a source of income, through the sale of the meat, oil and the carapace (shell). Sea Turtles are however, a highly protected in Kenya and are an endangered species world wide.
Nesting female turtles are very vulnerable on land and interested residents saw the risk they faced from poachers when they hauled themselves out of the ocean to lay their nests. The eggs they laid were also at risk of being dug up by poachers. Considering that only one in a thousand hatchlings make it to adulthood, every egg laid by these endangered animals counts.
After starting, the news of Watamu Turtle Watch and its efforts in protecting sea turtles soon spread amongst the local community. It became apparent that there was a need to do more than protect only the nesting females and their eggs. for example, a Green Turtle was brought to a fisherman’s landing site and handed to the Watamu Turtle Watch team. This was the first turtle rescue of Watamu Turtle Watch’s By Catch Release Programme. Now, 21 years later, LOC have conducted more than 17 000 turtle releases.
The By Catch Release Programme in particular, has grown enormously over the years and we are now working with over 400 fishermen on a regular basis. The programme encourages fishermen to save the lives of the sea turtles accidentally caught in their nets instead of slaughtering them for their meat and oil. Many of the fishermen have confided in us that were it not for Watamu Turtle Watch, most turtles that end up in nets would be killed straight away. The programme also endeavors to provide first-hand information about sea turtles and the marine environment. The key to the success of this programme is a result of increased community understanding. This has been brought about by the community outreach and marine education delivered by Local Ocean Conservation on the plight of the sea turtle and the benefits of its survival in Watamu.
As more and more turtles were reported to LOC as accidental by-catch, it was inevitable that LOC would come across one that was sick or injured. In order to adequately deal with these encounters, the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre was built. It started small but has now grown to encompass 9 tanks, a clinic, quarantine area and facilities to carry out basic medical procedures. This is the only Turtle Rehabilitation Centre in East Africa and we have treated more than 490 patients since its inception.
The commercial fishing industry plays a large part in endangering the sea turtles of the world. Nets, trawlers and ring nets for example, catch everything in their way including sea turtles and other threatened species of marine life. Once entangled, they either drown because they cannot come up for air or sustain serious injuries leaving them unable to fend for themselves and resulting in imminent death as they become easy prey for predators and parasites.
Plastics and other pollutants that find their way to the ocean are of great threat to sea turtles. Plastics, when ingested, block the turtle’s digestive system which eventually kills it. Research is showing that plastics are present in many marine species, including fish consumed by humans. There are five gyres in the ocean filled with plastics. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of the best known. It is a swirling island of plastic the size of a small country. What is less known is that we have our own gyre in the Southern Indian Ocean. It is believed that other pollutants are the cause of a condition called fibropapillomatosis, which is highly contagious among sea turtles and nearly always fatal.
LOC Beach Monitors patrol the beaches every night to keep the turtles and their nests safe. To date, more than 900 nests have been monitored and over 73,000 hatchlings have made it safely to the ocean.
The Marine Scout is a programme for local children who have shown particular interest in nature. They become ambassadors of the environment in their communities and the aim is for them to go to a career in an environment related field.
Within our centre we have office buildings, accommodation for staff and our EcoVisitors, the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and information displays for visitors. More than 2,000 tourists visit the Local Ocean every year.
Today the sea turtles of Watamu stand a chance to thrive in the water and on the beach. Every single turtle that is saved through our efforts, is given a second chance to live and will hopefully come back one day to lay their own eggs on Watamu’s beautiful pristine beaches and foreshore area.
You too can help drive a positive change for our marine environments by taking care of your own impact when visiting the coast and sharing the message for others to #LoveYourLocalOcean
Together we can create a world that not only allows us to co-exist with and enjoy the beauty of mother nature but can ensure future generations experience it too.
For more information and to help support please visit www.localocean.co or find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!
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