World Sustainability Organisation (WSO) has called for responsible fishing to protect endangered marine lives and an end to the consumption of sea turtles.

In an event held in Ikoyi, Lagos, the founder and director of the group, Paolo Bray said that sea turtles act as a check on predatory species, especially jellyfish, which feed on other fish of commercial value.
The group under its project – Friend of the Sea, said that excess jellyfish population can disrupt the marine environment.

“In areas where we have seen a decrease in turtles populations due to the accidental bycatch in fisheries as in the Gulf of Mexico, which is the case study, we have seen amazing growth in jellyfish population with the detrimental consequences for the other fish stocks, which have decreased dramatically.”

“And this could very soon be up and although it’s also in the waters of Nigeria and cause also the decrease of bycatches of other important commercial species.”

He said Nigeria has five of the seven species of sea turtles and they should not be allowed to go into extinction.

“They come to the land to lay eggs which exposes them to poaching. They lay up to 10,000 eggs.
Speaking on the threat facing sea turtles, he said that the sea turtles are faced with natural and man-made threats.

He listed the natural threats as habitat destruction, poaching, entanglement in fishing gears, pollution and oil spills and climate change.

While the man-made threats include, mangrove destruction for firewood, pollution, lack of research data, real estate, and plastic debris.
He lamented the continuous hunt of sea turtles for food and the shells for cultural and traditional use in Bakasi and other parts of Nigeria.

He said that there is a need to create awareness and alternatives to poaching.
“I think there is a need to raise awareness in general among the Nigerian public, consumers and civil society and also the authorities, and fishing companies, for them to understand the importance of conservation and how also they can act to prevent over-exploitation of marine resources. For example, companies must implement sustainable fishing practices.

“We hope that the most important result of this meeting will be also to create a sustainability platform where the different seafood companies, the local authorities, NGOs, can dialogue to move in the right direction in the fastest possible time because time is not on our side,” he said.
Speaking on the challenges while trying to save Sea Turtles, the founder, Sea Turtle Sanctuary, Doyinsola Ogunye, said it is challenging to convince local fishermen to release sea turtles after the catch.
“It’s a huge challenge in blood and sweat; from getting the calls that the turtles are being poached, to finding your way there and having to convince these people and take the turtle back. Sometimes, the turtle is already distressed. There was a time I was asked to pay N10 million before a Sea Turtle could be returned to the sea, but it took the intervention of Oba Elegushi and others to get the turtle rescued.
“And now in Nigeria, we don’t have any space on our shorelines that caters to turtles that we find. So it’s between, you know, the devil and the deep blue sea type of thing, where we have to release the turtles to fend for themselves, as opposed to you know, taking the turtle in for one or two days to find out if it’s fit for that journey.
Mrs Ogunye said that the major challenges are ignorance and lack of enforcement of the law.

“They need to put in more effort. In a lot of places all around the world, turtles are being conserved, turtles are being protected, and that’s because it’s critically endangered.”
During the event, Atlantic Shrimpers Limited was recognised for the company’s engagement to reduce turtle bycatch.

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