Amazing things are happening with the green turtle population that nests in Tyre Coast Nature Reserve (TCNR). For the second nesting season in a row, the numbers reported give us real hope for the recovery of this iconic endangered species.
The trend for green turtle nesting in TCNR is evidence of an inspiring conservation success story brought about by over two years of support and collaboration among TCNR, Tyre Municipality, the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Regional Office for West Asia (IUCN ROWA), The Association for the Development of Rural Capacities (ADR) and researchers from around the Mediterranean. Local community members have shown a strong sense of stewardship for this globally important turtle rookery.
From April through October, during the peak of the tourist season, nesting female sea turtles dig nests on the southern sites of the Lebanese coast. These beaches are nationally and regionally important for the endangered green and loggerhead turtles.
The most common sea turtle nesting on the southern shores is the loggerhead, which is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. For the second year in a row, the beaches of TCNR are witnessing the return of the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) named for the colour of the green fat found beneath its carapace.
This species is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and CITES, and is protected from exploitation in most countries. Conservation efforts have risen after successful cooperation with local community members and beach shack owners to reduce light pollution from the tourist area of TCNR by using a light shield for all bulbs, covering around 400 bulbs in 49 beach shacks. Successful community-based management under the patronage of Tyre’s Municipality has brought the green turtle back to the nesting beaches for the first time in almost nine years. The loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) - named for its large head and powerful jaw - maintained its regular annual nesting along the sandy beach of TCNR.
Besides the efforts requiring the use of turtle-friendly beachfront lighting to prevent the disorientation of nesting turtles and hatchlings, this amazing success story is also credited to the great support of Tyre Municipality in setting up strict enforcement on blast fishing – a destructive fishing technique often used along the coast in Lebanon. Other sustainable fishing regulations by the Municipality are restricting fishing within 500 metres of shore, as per the Lebanese Fishing Law. This has reduced the pressure on turtle foraging grounds and has made the rocky area in Tyre a safe haven for turtles.
Many other efforts have also aided in the recovery of green turtle populations along the Tyrian coast of south Lebanon. However, the most important conservation steps are the establishment of dialogue between the TCNR and the local community and the initiation of a community-based management model toward the conservation of biodiversity. These efforts have started to show through the promotion of sustainable fishing in Tyre orchestrated by the 'Sustainable Fisheries Management for Improved Livelihoods of the Coastal Fishing Community in Tyre – Lebanon' project, funded by DROSOS Foundation and implemented by IUCN ROWA and ADR.
For more information, please contact:
Ziad Samaha, Programme Manager