Senegalese Fishermen Become Sea Turtle Protectors

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A group of Senegalese fishermen are working to protect the endangered turtles they once hunted.

Green sea turtles nest on the West African beaches, facing pollution, fishing nets and poaching in as they come ashore. Thirty years ago, their meat was a popular source of protein for the Senegalese. It was easily found in markets and on the streets of Joal, one of the country’s busiest fishing ports, and Fadiout, its sister village.

“We ate them in the street, we cooked them at home,” Abdou Karim Sall, head of the local fishermens association and leader of the Joal-Fadiouth marine protected area management committee, tells the Jakarta Post.

The marine protected area (MPA), founded in 2004, encompasses 57 square miles of beaches, mangrove forests, and an area of tropical savanna. Government co-manages the operations with local authorities and associations.

“Once we were the biggest eaters of turtles,” Sall says. “Now we have become their biggest protectors.”

About 20 MPA agents and local volunteers watch for animals coming ashore during turtle nesting season, which stretches from July to October. They construct fences around nests and free turtles caught in nets or discarded plastic. When the turtles are set to hatch, groups gather to protect the babies from predators as they make their way from nests to the ocean.

Through educational outreach, the MPA association increased local awareness of a turtles’ role in a healthy fishery. It further retooled the region’s economic reliance on turtles by providing turtle sellers with canoes to be used for tourism, providing a non-extractive way for residents to make a living on turtles.

“It’s not to our advantage to eat them, because they help save marine species,” local fisherman Gamar Kane tells the Post. “Wherever you find turtles you will find shrimp and octopus in abundance.”

Source: Sport Diver

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