Government officials, school administrators and community members involved in an IUCN VN initiative to implement the National Marine Turtle Conservation Action Plan to 2010 (MTCAP) said the activities helped provide the management support needed to reach the plan’s goals.
The stakeholders gathered for a September 18, 2008, workshop closing out the second phase of the joint IUCN, WWF and TRAFFIC project, which Danida primarily funded. After supporting the development of the MTCAP in Phase I, the initiative continued grassroots, awareness-raising activities into Phase II, with additional funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
On March 8, 2004, the Ministry of Fisheries issued Decision 175 approving the Action Plan that established guidelines and strategies for protecting the five species of sea turtles in Viet Nam’s waters. IUCN provided input in drafting the Plan and, in the four years following its approval, aided the government in mainstreaming its priorities into legal documents, according to Mr. Chu Tien Vinh, general director of the National Directorate for Aquatic Resources Protection.
IUCN also worked at the district and commune level, forming volunteer fishermen’s groups to monitor the turtles, organizing extracurricular junior high school lessons to teach environmental concepts and training Bai Tu Long National Park staff on marine conservation, eco-tourism and skills for working with the community.
Mr. Pham Tuan Hung, director of Bai Tu Long National Park, said the reserve lacked the capacity, knowledge and resources to wholly fulfill its conservation mandate, making IUCN’s support essential, especially in mobilizing the surrounding community in marine turtle protection.
IUCN helped launch a Web site for the national park, allowing government managers and other interested parties to stay up-to-date on its affairs, he said.
Students in grades 6-9 in Minh Chau commune, Van Don District Quang Ninh Province and in Hai An Commune, Hai Lang District; Trieu Lang Commune, Trieu Phong District in Quang Tri Province learned about conserving marine turtles and their habitat through extra-curricular lessons and contests involving writing, drawing and acting competitions between schools, classes and grades. Teachers were trained in administering those lessons.
The mix of activities made environmental protection seem more interesting than did previous, more theoretical extra-curricular material, said Mrs. Bui Thi Lien, director of a school on Minh Chau island, and thus were more effective in encouraging pupils to bring the information home to their families.
Mr. Nguyen Van Bao, head of a voluntary fishermen’s group, said that since his childhood, he has seen the population of sea turtles coming to nest on Minh Chau reduced to a tenth of its previous size. To address that problem, he leads an IUCN-organized group of local volunteers who alert authorities when turtles come ashore and arrange their release back to the ocean. A second group catalogues the details of turtles they spot at sea.
In addition to continuing those activities, the next step for Viet Nam will be to develop an Action Plan to take over after 2010, said Mark Hamann, an IUCN consultant who conducted baseline surveys for the current Plan.
“The contribution of groups like IUCN is vital to the success of these conservation activities,” he said, “because they have the ability to get funding, the access to local communities, the capacity and the enthusiasm to get things moving.”
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