ESO intensifies awareness drive to help save sea turtles on Masirah

Striving to ensure sea turtles remain safe in their natural habitat, the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) announced the completion of the intensive five-day ‘Masirah Turtle Campaign’.
The initiative was launched to raise awareness about the danger that fishermen’s nets can cause to the island’s endangered sea creatures. Various activities were organised such as awareness presentations to fishermen, schoolchildren, Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) and Omani Women Association, football matches with turtle themed names, and one municipal beach clean-up with the participation of members of the community.
Thousands of turtles nest on Masirah Island every year, and it represents one of the highest densities of nesting loggerhead turtles in the world. However, nesting habitats of this population are being compromised due to human activities such as bycatch in fishing gear, entanglement in abandoned and lost fishing gear at sea, boat strikes, disturbance on beaches from beach driving, and disorientation due to light pollution. In February 2019, three skip bins were installed on three beaches used as fish landing sites to incite fishermen to dispose of their nets instead than in the open ocean. The bins were accompanied with signs written in five of the most commonly spoken languages by the fishing community on Masirah. This initiative was done in coordination with Be’ah, Ecovision, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and Masirah Municipality.
Dr Hamed Al Gheilani, Community Outreach Manager at ESO said: “For years, people have lived in harmony with sea turtles, however, today, they are threatened by a number of issues which caused them to become endangered including unsustainable fishing practices, marine pollution, lighting pollution. Climate change has also an underlying impact which is poorly understood to date. The campaign was launched in order for us to ensure we reach the maximum number of people and significantly boost the marine environment.
The success of this campaign was with the combined efforts from the residents of Masirah Island and would like to extend a special thank you to the Wali of Masirah Office, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Be’ah Company, Ecovision, Masirah Municipality, Women Association, the schools of Masirah, Al Waffa Center, Masirah Club, Royal Air Force Oman (RAFO) for their help and collaboration.”
ESO has a long history of coordinating beach clean-ups. In 2016 and 2017 it removed a total of 1,067kg of waste from the ecologically sensitive beaches of the Dimaniyat Islands Nature Reserve and 590kg of discarded fishing nets underwater. In January this year, it collected around 400 tonnes of waste and used fishing gear in collaboration with Masirah Municipality and Be’ah.