LFZC, NCF Sensitise Coastal Communities in Lagos on Sea Turtle Conservation 

Bennett Oghifo

Sequel to the sea turtle conservation partnership signed between the Lagos Free Zone Company (LFZC) and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), a series of activities began in December 2022. 

According to a statement by the NCF, the ultimate vision of these activities is to promote the preservation of endangered sea turtles and reduce the impact of human activities on their population within the operational range and surrounding communities around the LFZC.

The community awareness and sensitisation exercises on sea turtles that were embarked on aimed to achieve the following: support the ecosystem in mitigating the impact of human activities; educate and create awareness within and beyond the surrounding communities; evaluate the behavior of stakeholders towards sea turtle conservation; and promote environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation.

Sea turtles play an important role in maintaining marine and coastal ecosystems. Their ecosystem functions include nutrients recycling, maintaining habitat integrity, maintaining the ecosystem of coastal reefs and coastal dunes. Unfortunately, most species of sea turtles are currently threatened according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The decline in the population of these species is largely due to anthropogenic pressures on the species and its habitats. Activities such as commercial fishing, loss of nesting habitat, pollution, harvesting of their eggs, overfishing, direct hunting of sea turtles for meat all contribute to the decline of the species. As their population declines, so does their ability to fulfil vital functions in the marine ecosystems.

The awareness programme took place at Magbon-Segun hall, Okunraye Baale’s house, and Idotun hall with 115 participants drawn from Magbon-Segun, Okesegun, Ilekuru, Okunraye, Lujagba, Idotun and Itoke communities. Participants were educated on the role sea turtles play in the environment, how human activities have affected their population and the possible conservation actions to mitigate the impact of human activities towards the protection of sea turtles.

Some concerns were raised by the attendees, including availability of protein substitutes for sea turtles; livelihood intervention; handling accidental bycatches; accounting for damaged fishing gears; disagreement on the major causes of species decline; myths and beliefs; the roles of large trawlers in the species decline; actions on captured species; compensation for fishers in the case of damaged nets from accidental catch of turtles.

Some of the recommendations made by the stakeholders during the session were: continuous and consistent engagement with the stakeholders, education and awareness programmes in the surrounding communities to close the identified knowledge gap, this will disabuse the negative perception towards the conservation of the sea turtles; 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 Lagos Free Zone Company; expanding the awareness program to other stakeholders utilising the shore and the adjacent habitats e.g trawlers association; collaboration with the Lagos state ministry of environment and other relevant stakeholders on sensitisation within the communities; advocacy and enactment of laws in collaboration with the appropriate agencies both at community and at state levels; celebrating beach clean-ups and world sea turtle days regularly; Research on the roles and intensity of kills by trawlers at industrial levels and locals at community levels; and establishment of a sea turtle research and conservation center.

Among the participants of the awareness programme were traditional leaders, youth leaders, representatives and partners, fishermen, traders among others.

NCF is the foremost environmental NGO in Nigeria dedicated to nature conservation and biodiversity resources management. A key pillar in the 2021-2025 NCF Strategic Action Pillar (SAP) is “Saving Species in Peril”, designed to rescue and conserve threatened and endangered species like the sea turtle and many others.

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