Ghana organizes 1st National Sea Turtle Conference

Ghana organizes 1st National Sea Turtle Conference
March 20, 2018 10:25 am News

The Wildlife Division hosted the maiden Ghana National Sea Turtle Conference in Accra, Ghana, with support from United States Fish & Wildlife Service, Florida Gulf Coast University, WA BiCC, and Voltic Water. This was aimed at bringing together businesses, organizations, and governmental agencies in Ghana whose activities affect the conservation of sea turtles, positively or negatively.

People are unaware of the ecological and economic benefits of sea turtles. Leatherback sea turtles, for example, feeds on jellyfish, thus allowing other fish and the fishing industry to survive. Green turtles prevent sea grass from overgrowing by feeding on it, and maintains a healthy habitat for other aquatic species in the process. Unfortunately, numbers of these environmentally-beneficial sea turtles are dwindling rapidly. Sea turtles are threatened by human activities such as direct harvesting of the females and eggs, fishery by-catch, tourism activities, among others. Ghana is blessed with approximately 550 km of coastline. Historically, Ghana has been home to nesting habitats of 5 species of marine turtles. Today, 2 of these species are rarely seen and the remaining 3 are under severe threat. Many institutions and organizations are working to help conserve these species, but to this point, collaborative coordination has been an afterthought at best. The lack of an effective data collection and information sharing system has hampered conservation efforts.

At this National Sea Turtle Conference, various conservationists came together to shed light on their respective activities on the ground and the challenges they are beset with, some mostly due to inadequate resources and coordination. This fostered key discussions among these stakeholders to work towards addressing these challenges together through collaboration.

Collaborating on a national level is vital, but effectively conserving sea turtles also depends on protecting them on a bigger scale since they are migratory species. For this reason, WA BiCC hosted stakeholders from the National Sea Turtle Conference the following day (March 9th) to highlight sea turtle conservation efforts in other West African countries, and mainly to discuss establishing a network to coordinate on a regional level through the exchange of best practices and sharing of data and information. Interest in establishing this network was unanimous. The speakers, including a trainee from WA BiCC’s master’s program, shared their sea turtle conservation efforts in their respective countries to give more perspective on the need for regional coordination. Participants saw great value in sharing experiences and coordinating sea turtle conservation activities across West Africa. There was an agreement on a set of next steps to guide the process of identifying and establishing a network, which included;

  • Creating a database of sea turtle conservation initiatives in Ghana and extending this to other ECOWAS member states.
  • Creating a google group for the sea turtle conservation projects in Ghana.
  • Drafting a concept note for the Regional Network.

Moving forward, we will hopefully streamline our efforts towards sea turtle conservation to minimize the challenges we face in our work and most importantly, the threats these sea turtles face.


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