Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | Sha'ban 28, 1444 H
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ESO project combats light pollution for sea turtles on Masirah Island

ESO - Hatchling Turtle
ESO - Hatchling Turtle

Building on their long-term efforts to conserve the population of nesting Loggerhead sea turtles on Masirah Island, the Environment Society of Oman (ESO), in collaboration with the Environment Authority (EA) and Future Seas Global SPC (FS), have launched a new initiative to combat light pollution. Sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Sprint for Oman, the latest project aims to help local coastal communities switch to low glare lighting, while raising awareness on the effects of artificial bright lights, which remain one of the main threats to nesting and hatching turtles.

“Nesting turtles need a quiet, dark beach to lay their eggs, but as Masirah develops, lights from the nearby properties discourage females from nesting. If a female attempting to nest is repeatedly disturbed by recreational activities on the beach, such as movement or artificial light, she will eventually resort to deposit her eggs in the ocean, and thus losing all her eggs. The survival outlook for hatchlings is naturally slim and it is our responsibility to secure them a safe nesting and hatching environment” said Suaad Al Harthi, Executive Director, ESO. “In this case, the solution is as simple as changing a lightbulb. We’re grateful to all of our supporters on the project, but especially the local community, who have been key custodians in our conservation efforts since the beginning of our sea turtle programme. By working together, we are ensuring that our precious wildlife is still around for future generations to enjoy.”

Dr Andrew Willson, Founding Director of Future Seas Global SPC added, “In addition to causing disruption to the nesting process, artificial lights can disorient the females after nesting, as well as the hatchlings emerging from the nests. We have witnessed, on various occasions, an adult female and hatchlings disorientated by lights, wandering in-land instead of heading towards the ocean. We also found them crawling on the main coastal road which doesn’t usually have a happy ending. With the current declining status of the population, it is imperative that we make sure that every hatchling makes it back to sea to support the population recovery. ESO's efforts to conserve the declining loggerhead population on Masirah are essential and we are proud to be a part of the project.”

Supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources, and the Omani Women’s Association, surveyors took to the field to determine the lighting sources posing the highest threat to the sea turtles and the modifications required. To further encourage the project, Sheikh Abdullah Khalifa Al Maajali, member of the Majlis A’Shura, has offered his house to be the first on which lighting modifications can be made.

Being the Sultanate’s only non-profit organization focusing on environmental conservation, ESO has been combatting such issues since 2008 as part of the organization’s long-standing Sea Turtle Research and Conservation project, based on Masirah Island. ESO continues to promote a sustainable approach in delivering conservation action, while ensuring the involvement of local communities.

For more information on how to support, make a donation, or to find out other ways to get involved, visit eso.org.om.

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