US experts to help PHL boost marine turtle population

The Philippines is banking on the expertise of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States Department of Commerce to improve its ongoing marine turtle population-management program.

“Through information exchange and technology transfer, we are hoping to improve our ongoing marine turtle-conservation program,” Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) told the BusinessMirror in an interview.

Lim said studies on the behavior of the marine turtles will help Philippine experts piece together and solve the mystery surrounding the life cycle of the marine turtles.

She said the NOAA’s research into ways to reduce the bycatch of marine turtles will be “very useful” in improving the Pawikan Conservation Program (PCP).

“We can use their science to come up with appropriate policy and prepare appropriate action plans to make our programs and project science based. This will help improve not only the management of our turtle population but the management of their habitats, too,”Lim said.

“Our intention is also to use their science to come up with programs that will help our communities, whether in ecotourism or fisheries,” she added.

Lim said the Philippines can help NOAA experts by sharing information on managing marine turtle hatchery and its best conservation practices.

“With the Philippines and the US having shared population of turtles, we can count on their help to enhance our programs on turtle-population conservation and combat illegal wildlife trade,” she said.

Earlier, the Philippines, through the BMB and the NOAA, particularly the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, are eyeing to collaborate to improve the management of the marine turtle population shared by the two countries.

NOAA-Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center research ecologists Summer L. Martin and John H. Wang recently met with experts from the DENR-BMB to share ongoing programs and initiatives on marine turtle-population management on September 19.

Based on their studies, Martin said some of the marine turtles from the US were observed to forage in seagrass beds in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao.

She said some species from the US were tagged and tracked through global positioning satellite device that allowed them to track and observe the behavior of the tagged turtles at different age levels.

Wang shared some of the technologies they developed to reduce the bycatch of marine turtles. One technology, which could be used by those involved in long-line fisheries, involves the use of circle hooks, instead of the “J” hook, which can reduce the bycatch of marine turtles, as well as other nontargeted species without significant effect on the volume of fish catch.

Wang said fishermen can also use illuminated nets so marine turtles would be able to avoid it.