Getting recognition for Tanzania’s regional importance to marine turtles

The Secretariat of the Indian Ocean South-East Asian (IOSEA) Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding has resolved to establish a ‘Network of Sites of Importance for Marine Turtles’ in the region. The goal of the network is to promote the long-term conservation of sites of regional and global importance to marine turtles and their habitats and generate opportunities for enhanced cooperation through training, exchange of information on best practices and joint research and monitoring projects.

In response to a request from the IOSEA Secretariat for site nominations from Signatory States, Tanzania, through Sea Sense and the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development, commenced a review of important marine turtle sites in the country. Following extensive evaluations of existing biological and socio-economic data, in-depth reviews of historical project reports and online literature searches it was agreed that there was sufficient evidence to support the nomination of the Rufiji Delta-Mafia Channel Complex as a Site of Importance for Marine Turtles. The Rufiji Delta-Mafia Channel Complex has long being recognised as an important biodiversity hotspot in Tanzania. The Rufiji Delta was designated as a RAMSAR site in 2004 in view of its outstanding array of wetland habitats. Of particular note are the extensive sea grass beds which provide important foraging grounds for both juvenile and adult green turtles. To the east of the Rufiji Delta lies the Mafia Channel, the southern part of which is included within the boundaries of Mafia Island Marine Park (MIMP). MIMP was gazetted as a Marine Protected Area in 1996 and supports the largest green turtle rookery in Tanzania. Furthermore, stranding records indicate that hawksbill, loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback turtles utilise the Rufiji Delta-Mafia Channel Complex, most likely as a migratory corridor.

The 18 page application, which was drafted by Sea Sense and the Tanzania Focal Point for the IOSEA MoU, was endorsed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development and has now been formally submitted to the IOSEA Secretariat for evaluation. Tanzania became the first IOSEA Signatory State (out of 33) to officially propose a site for inclusion in the Site Network and the IOSEA Secretariat has described the application as “ground-breaking”. The Secretariat has shared the application on the IOSEA website describing both the development process and the proposal itself to be an “excellent model for other Signatory States to consider”. The nomination will be reviewed by the IOSEA Advisory Committee and the next meeting of IOSEA Signatory States in August of this year will consider and collectively endorse the formal submissions, taking into account the Advisory Committee’s recommendations.

Inclusion of the Rufiji Delta – Mafia Channel into a regional Site Network has the potential to facilitate conservation initiatives that benefit species of high biodiversity value, reduce the degradation of critical coastal ecosystems and bring socio-economic benefits to the communities that live there. We are confident that the Rufiji Delta will be recognised for its regional importance to marine turtles and we will keep you updated with the progress of the application.

Sunday, 20.04.2014 22:44 22:44 Age: 5 Years

Expected Green Turtle Hatching Dates in January 2019

16th & 24th
South Beach
Mafia Island

Did you know?

A female dugong (cow) produces a single calf every 2.5 to 5 years, after a gestation period of 14 months.