The Lagos Free Zone Company (LFZC) and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) have combined efforts to save reverse the declining number of angered species of sea turtles in the coastal communities in the country.
Speaking at a community awareness and sensitisation programme at the Magbon-Segun hall, Okunraye Baale’s house, and the Idotun hall in Lagos, representatives of both organisations disclosed that the exercise aimed to support the ecosystem in mitigating the impact of human activities; educate and create awareness within and beyond the surrounding communities; evaluate the behaviour of stakeholders towards sea turtle conservation and promote environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation.
The decline in the population of the species, they explained, was largely due to anthropogenic pressures on the species and its habitats with activities such as commercial fishing, loss of nesting habitat, pollution, harvesting of their eggs, overfishing, direct hunting of sea turtle for meat contributing to the decline of the species.
NCF Communications Manager, Oladapo Soneye, quoted speakers as saying as the population of sea turtles declines, so does their ability to fulfill vital functions in the marine ecosystems.
According to him, 115 participants drawn from Magbon-Segun, Okesegun, Ilekuru, Okunraye, Lujagba, Idotun and Itoke communities were educated on the role sea turtles play in the environment and how human activities have affected their population and the possible conservation actions to mitigate the impact of human activities towards the protection of birds.
Some of the concerns raised by participants include availability of protein substitutes for sea turtles; livelihood intervention; handling accidental by catches; accounting for damaged fishing gears and disagreement on the major causes of species decline among others.
They also recommend the continuous and consistent engagement with the stakeholders, education and awareness programmes in the surrounding communities to close the identified knowledge gap in order to disabuse the negative perception towards the conservation of the sea turtles.
Others include monitoring of sea turtle activities along the LFZC operational areas to guide conservation efforts; livelihood intervention to deter dependence on sea turtle trade and consumption in the communities surrounding the LFZC and expanding the awareness programme to other stakeholders utilizing the shore and the adjacent habitats such as trawlers association