SEA TURTLE CONSERVATION
All species of sea turtles are considered globally under some degree of threat. Out of the seven living species, two of them are considered critically endangered (CR), two endangered (EN), two vulnerable (VU) and one lack of sufficient data (DD) to be arranged. The main threats that loom over them are mainly the destruction or deterioration of their nesting habitats (sandy coastal beaches), the collection of their eggs for human consumption, marine environment pollution (which can cause entanglement and lacerations, ingestion of garbage, accumulation of heavy metals and organochlorine compounds in their tissues), incidence with fishing gear (trawl nets, longline, ghost nets), incidence with vessels due to collision and capture for commercialisation of their products.
During last years, Chelonia Association has carried out several projects towards the conservation of sea turtles with the collaboration of the Spanish Ministry of the Environment, the Junta de Andalucía (regional government), the Biodiversity Foundation, the Authority of the Port of Vigo, as well as with various private organisations. Through them, it was possible to estimate a high level of annual accidental capture of sea turtles, mainly loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), based on the activity of the trawling fleet operating in the Atlantic Ocean and Andalusian Mediterranean Sea. In 2009, the first experimental tests of Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) were carried out on trawlers along the Andalusian Mediterranean Sea coast, in order to reduce the accidental capture of sea turtles, as well as sharks and cetaceans. At the same time, a volunteer programme has been carried out in trawlers and long liners towards greater awareness and knowledge of the problem from a constructive and participatory perspective, as well as towards strengthening these fishing segments.
Nowadays, TED experimentation is continuing in the Valencian Mediterranean Sea and Andalusian Atlantic Ocean trawling fleet, as well as carrying out actions to evaluate the impact of the longline fishery on sea turtles and elasmobranchs in the Atlantic Ocean with the collaboration of the sector. Sensitisation and training actions for the collection and systematisation of essential information, as well as to carry out an appropriate management of accidental catches and increase survival rates are under development, as well as other awareness raising and diffusion activities about the state of conservation and means and mitigation actions.
At an international level, Chelonia Association collaborates in the conservation of four species of sea turtles that nest in the regional protected area of "Ensenada de Rionegro”, nearby lowlands and “Marimonda and El Salado swamps”, Municipality of Necoclí, in the Colombian Caribbean Sea, through technical equipment and training support to a local group, in cooperation with the Corporation for Sustainable Development of Urabá (CORPOURABA), within the international cooperation actions for the development the organisation carries out in Colombia.
This line of action includes some aspects of improvement in the management of fisheries and the marine environment, focused on increasing fishing selectivity and strengthening the sector, while exploring new solutions and tools to reduce the incidental catch of these threatened species.
Sea turtle information: http://bycatch-reduction-project.jimdo.com/tortugas/ y https://www.tortugasmarinasespana.org/.