Saturday, April 22, 2006

Brunei launches 'Year of the Turtle'

Borneo Turtles Two turtles moving towards the sea. Photo © Borneo Bulletin.

By Lyna Mohamad

The Year of the Turtle was launched in Brunei yesterday at the Meragang Beach with the release of ten adult turtles and 40 hatchlings. They comprised the Olive Ridley, Hawksbill and Green turtles.

Awang Hj Jemat Bin Hj Ampal, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture Youth and Sports launching the event observed that through the National Committee on Management and Conservation of Sea Turtle formed since 2000 comprising Fisheries department, Royal Brunei

Police Force, Customs and Excise and Museums, a concrete action plan has been established to strengthen the enforcement and control of harvesting and selling of turtle eggs locally.

"A long term programme to ensure full success in the conservation of turtles has also been implemented in the form of education and awareness aimed at the public at large," he said.

Mentioning that His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has always been keen in ensuring the conservation and sustainability of the fauna and flora of Brunei, the Perm Sec noted the trails of successfully hatching turtle eggs artificially to encourage the expansion of its population.

"Encouraged by each success and being aware of the threat of the reduction of numbers of nestling turtles in Brunei, the Department of Fisheries has embarked on a turtle management and conservation project," he observed.

Such a project was aimed at the maintenance of the biodiversity and to properly manage the turtle population through the protection of their nesting sites.

The release of the sea turtles was led by the Perm Sec followed by the Director of the Council of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre SEAFDEC, who are currently attending the meeting and students from 10 secon-dary and primary schools from the Brunei Muara district.

The coastal waters of Brunei Darussalam, high-lighted the Permanent Secretary, are known to be in the migration path of marine turtles during their migration period.

The offshore oil platforms have also provided excellent substratum for the growth of marine organisms such as soft coral in addition to the natural coral reefs, where divers have also spotted turtles feeding on the organisms afforded by the oil installations.

He disclosed that the Asean Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) at the 19th meeting held in 1997endorsed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Asean Sea Turtle Conservation and Protection.

This MoU, he said, aimed at promoting the protection, conservation, replenishing and recovery of sea turtles and their habitats based on the best available scientific evidence, taking into account the environment, socio-economic and cultural characteristics of individual Asean member countries.

Brunei Darusalam and other Asean Member Countries since then, have been engaging actively in the conservation and management of sea turtles.

The chief guest extended his appreciation to SEAFDEC that has also taken the initiative and played an active role in the sea turtle management and conservation and on behalf of the Brunei government extended appreciation to Japan for the generosity they extended to provide a fund for the project since 1998.

Out of the seven species found in the world, only three are found in the Brunei waters namely Olive Ridley, Green and Hawksbill turtle and an unconfirmed sighting of Leatherback Turtle that have been reported but there has been no record of nesting females of this species.

Sea Turtles, as it is known, are protected under Appendix I of the Convention for international Trade of Endangered Species of wild flora and fauna (CITES) where the sultanate is the signatory of this convention since 1990.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

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