afrol News, 29 October - Turtle Excluder Devices are now compulsory in trawl nets in Mozambique, after yesterday's government approval of a new Regulation for Marine Fisheries. The devices will have to be implemented in all trawl nets on boats with engines, from January 2005.
A recent study showed that shallow water shrimp trawlers operating on Sofala Bank in central Mozambican waters kill between 1,932 to 5,436 marine turtles every year, the conservation organisation WWF today said.
- These deaths can be averted by installing Turtle Excluder Devices on trawl nets, WWF says. This use includes only a simple and inexpensive operation, which is actually welcomed by Mozambican boat owners.
Six of the seven species of marine turtles worldwide are listed as 'Endangered' or 'Critically Endangered', and the outlook is increasingly grim. The turtles are constantly losing out habitat, in particular nesting beaches. Further, their eggs are often collected and turtle meat and shells are still illegally traded. On top of it comes the accidental fishing of turtles.
WWF has long campaigned for the use of these devices in trawl nets. In Mozambique, the group supported the first Turtle Excluder Devices trials in the Sofala bank shrimp fisheries.
The Mozambican change of policy had also been a result of heavy campaigns during this year's review of Mozambique's fisheries regulations. Over a period of several months, Mozambican Ministers and Vice-Ministers received hundreds of letters from around the world calling for the devices to be compulsory.
The new Regulation on Marine Fisheries replaces an old one, and includes several innovative articles in addition to the one on Turtle Excluder Devices. One article allows for local fishermen co-management committees to have a say in fisheries management. Another establishes the minimum size for sea cucumbers (holothurians), which may bring some hope to the protection of this collapsed resource.
The environmentalist group is also campaigning against illegal fishing by foreign vessels - mostly Chinese and Korean - in Mozambican waters and their accidental turtle killings. As a result, surveillance and enforcement of fisheries is now high in the agenda in meetings between the Ministries of Defence and Fisheries.
WWF today thanked the Mozambican Ministry of Fisheries, Ministry of Environment, domestic fleet owners, and the many others involved in the Turtle Excluder Devices trials and "for their support of the new legislation."
The important Mozambican waters - now safer for the turtles - will assist these animals' recovery, however only on a long term. Although marine turtles appear to have the potential to reproduce abundantly, even under "natural" conditions, relatively few young turtles survive their first year of life.
Predators such as crabs, foxes, and birds often kill the hatchlings as they make their way from the nest to the sea, and when they reach the shallows, many more tiny turtles are taken by fish. When humans harvest turtle eggs or disturb nesting beaches, the scales become tipped even more heavily against young turtles.
It takes decades for surviving juveniles to reach maturity and start to breed, and adult turtles must live to reproduce over many years if the population is to thrive. The high mortality on the high seas has further meant fewer and fewer turtles are living long enough to reproduce.
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