Masirah Island comprises one of the highest densities of loggerhead turtles in the world. However, research has shown that the nesting habitat of this population is compromised, likely due to human activities, stated a press release.
These include beach driving, beach erosion, fishing activities including boat landing and storage of fishing nets, accidental fishing, recreation/picnics, nest poaching, pollution (from town, roads, hotel and other sources), ingestion of marine litter and pollution, and encroachment of roads.
The population’s rapid decline has led to the denomination of the Northwest Indian Ocean sub-population, which nests in Oman, as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. Critically Endangered species are considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. Suaad al Harthi, programme director, ESO, said, “For years, people lived in harmony with these magnificent sea turtles but today, that coexistence is threatened by a number of issues that have caused them to become endangered. Over the last decade, ESO has been working hard to identify the causes of this population’s decline and ways to protect them.
“Together, with the support of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Port of Duqm, and Oman Oil Company, we have made great strides to empower local communities and work towards the conservation of nesting sites on Masirah Island. Although this phase has come to an end, more work is needed to ensure that these critically endangered turtles are protected and we hope to find more partners to be able to continue our efforts.”
The project included research of turtle nesting populations, and a number of community outreach and awareness activities for the conservation and preservation of these valuable species.
In addition to advocacy meetings with local stakeholders such as the wali, the Omani Women's Association, and representatives of local authority offices, capacity building was at the heart of the project. The project also contributed to sustain livelihoods through the employment of residents from Masirah Island for more than five years.
Reggy Vermeulen, CEO of Port of Duqm added, “We are proud to play a role in enhancing Oman’s marine life, which we believe must be preserved at all costs. Without a doubt, biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, plays an important role. Healthy biodiversity provides a number of natural services for everyone, which is why it is essential that we all embrace sustainability.”
Almutasim bin Said al Sariri, director of corporate affairs of Oman Oil Company (OOC), said, “As a responsible citizen, OOC is dedicated to contribute and support community development with targeted CSR programmes, and the Turtle Research and Conservation Project is a very unique model of environmental sustainability.
“The sultanate has been blessed with a wealth of bio-diverse regions. It is our responsibility as its stewards to ensure they are passed on to the next generation. Masirah Island is one of the most beautiful and pristine sites in the country and our joint efforts will help maintain it for years to come.”