Heaptalk, Jakarta – In conjunction with the World Sea Turtle Day, the GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA ATSEA-2 Project has brought together key opinion leaders, experts, professionals, and community leaders to commemorate the endangered species of sea turtles in the Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS) region on June 21st, 2022, through a virtual webinar.
Shared by Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Timor-Leste, ATS region covers more than 5,000 km of coastline; impacting the lives of more than 1 million inhabitants and with an economic value of US$7.3 billion per year. The region is adjacent to the Coral Triangle, which hosts the world’s highest marine biodiversity and contains some of the most pristine and highly threatened coastal and marine ecosystems.
It is home to six species of sea turtle including green turtle (Chelonia mydas); hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata); loggerhead (Caretta caretta); leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea); olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea); and flatback turtle (Natator depressus). All species are listed as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered, and are subject of protection via a number of national legislation instruments and via international conventions.
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Sea turtles suffer mortality through a wide range of manmade and natural impacts, including bycatch, illegal trade and direct consumption, habitat loss and climate change. According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 250,000 turtles died annually as bycatch and tens of thousands of sea turtles are lost each year to overharvesting and illegal trade in worldwide.
Sea turtles have been utilized for food, trade and have been part of ceremonial practices for thousands of years. Sea turtles also play important ecological roles, cropping seagrasses, foraging on sponges on coral reefs, and acting as top and middle predators in marine ecosystems.
“Sea turtles are crucial to maintaining healthy beach ecosystems and other organisms, including us, rely on them either directly or indirectly,” said Dr. Kiki Dethmers, Sea Turtle Expert Consultant of the ATSEA-2 Project. “Everything starts with awareness—about sea turtles and how they affect the oceans and coastal communities. Then, try to get involved in or even start campaigns in your region.”
According to a survey conducted by the Indonesian Turtle Foundation, between 2019 and 2020 the illegal trade value of hawksbill turtle could reach around IDR 5 billion. As a joint initiative by the government and WWF-Indonesia to save Balinese turtles by eradicating turtle trading, The Turtle Conservation and Education Center (TCEC) was built in 2006 as one of the largest conservation efforts towards Turtles in Bali.
“In TCEC, we tried to encourage the public to not to consume turtle meat and products, by providing the local community with various training programs and education, improving tourism potential and other activities as well providing job opportunities to locals of Serangan,” said I Wayan Dedi, Turtle Conservation and Education Center (TCEC) Marketing Officer.
“I learnt about the plight of sea turtles while shooting a movie and I realize how endangered they were. Therefore, I used my platform to raise awareness and fundraise for the Turtle Conservation and Education Center (TCEC) in Serangan Island, Denpasar, Bali for supporting sea turtles conservation,” said Asmara Abigail, Actress and Sea Turtles Campaigner.
Casandra Tania, Regional Biodiversity Specialist for the ATSEA-2 Project stated that as global citizens and inhabitants of planet earth, it is incumbent on all of us to treasure and protect all living creatures. “Let this day be the starting point of our contributions toward the betterment of sea turtles. Sea turtles deserve our attention,” said Casandra
In April 20th 2022, ATSEA-2 held a sea turtle expert workshop to update sea turtle status in the region and finalise the regional action plan. The workshop was attended by 27 experts from Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste. ATSEA-2 also supports the ongoing conservation initiatives done by coastal communities such as in Com Village, Lautem, Timor-Leste.
Moni Carlisle, Project Manager, Sea Environmental Management Torres Strait Regional Authority stated that conservation in the 21st century is no longer responsibility of the few who select it as a career or whose values lead them to “preserve” species for future generations. “Conservation is about communities and the sea turtle conservation in Torres Strait emphasising the involvement of Torres Islanders efforts,” said Moni.
“As climate realities and development increasingly push many species to the brink of existence, creating community-led projects where the sustainability of many endangered species and their ongoing management is critical. Especially, ones that are driven by the collaborative effort of grassroot communities, non-profits, and governments through sustainable partnerships,” Moni continued to say.
Organised in partnership with ArgoAsia, the World Sea Turtle Day by ATSEA-2 aims to highlight the importance of sea turtles and also encourages communities to dive into the threats that sea turtles face.
The main speakers for the webinar include ATSEA-2 Project Sea Turtle Expert Consultant, Dr. Kiki Dethmers; Project Manager, Sea Environmental Management Torres Strait Regional Authority, Moni Carlisle; Actress and Sea Turtle Campaigners, Asmara Abigail; and Turtle Conservation and Education Center (TCEC) Marketing Officer, I Wayan Dedi. (WLN)