Muscat: Seven adult female loggerhead turtles have been satellite tagged on Masirah Island in an effort to better understand their movements and lifespans.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA) has partnered with the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Ocean Ecology Network, Five Oceans Environmental Services and the Environment Society of Oman (ESO).
Launched as part of an initiative to study the nesting and foraging habitats of the critically endangered North West Indian Ocean loggerhead sub-population, the satellite tags will provide important data on the turtles’ movement and behaviour and their inter-nesting and post nesting habitats.
Rich in biodiversity, Masirah Island is the site of one of the two largest loggerhead nesting populations in the world.
While studies initiated in the 1970s estimated a population of approximately 30,000 nesting females, recent studies show numbers have since dropped significantly. This project will help improve understanding of the loggerhead turtles’ temporal and spatial ecology through tracking of their movements.
Ali Amer Al Kiyumi - Advisor to the Minister for Nature Conservation, Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, said, “Loggerhead turtles are spectacular creatures, with an enormous range that encompasses parts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. It is one of the largest of hard-shelled turtles, with an average 135 kilograms in weight and nearly one meter in shell length. This wide ranging species has been experiencing severe declines in population over the years particularly within the Northern Indian Ocean where a study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has assessed this sub-population to be critically endangered in 2015.With this collaboration and many others, we are aiming to reverse that trend and contribute towards global conservation efforts.”
HH Sayyida Tania Al Said ESO’s President, said, “Despite being an integral part of our global ecosystem for millennia, today loggerhead turtles face a substantial threat due to unsustainable fishing practices, marine pollution, climate change, and development on nesting beaches. Preserving these beautiful turtles is of the utmost importance and the data we receive will enable us and our partners to draw better conservation plans on Masirah.”
U.S. Ambassador to Oman Marc J. Sievers added, “We’re very proud of our collaboration with both the Omani government and Omani citizens to preserve loggerhead turtles. These magnificent animals are not only part of Oman’s natural heritage, but also an integral part of a global ecosystem. Oceans make our planet habitable by generating the oxygen we breathe and regulating our climate. Our fate is tied to the ocean's fate, and learning more about loggerhead turtles ultimately helps us understand more about the marine ecosystem. Protecting this vital resource is a global challenge, requiring the best efforts from all of us. We’re pleased to be able to participate in this important project here in Oman.”
The satellite tags will allow the general public and research teams from all over the world to follow and track the movements of these seven turtles.