Working with the Mersing Islands Community on the Conservation and Protection of Sea Turtle Populations
Working with the Mersing Islands Community on the Conservation and Protection of Sea Turtle Populations
The endangered green and critically endangered hawksbill turtle nest across the Mersing Islands, however vital information on the overall size of the nesting population is missing with the initial surveys suggesting that the population is declining due to habitat degradation, boat strikes, and the illegal collection and trade in eggs.

There is continued illegal trade in sea turtle nests harvested from the Mersing islands. This illegal trade combined with an increase in boat strikes and death of adults through entanglement or plastic ingestion will exacerbate the continued decline of the sea turtle nestings in this area.

We aim to reduce the decline in sea turtle populations in the Mersing Islands by involving and employing the local communities in their monitoring and protection. We will engage local communities as honorary rangers (eyes-and-ears for conservation) and citizen scientists, providing them with training on nesting beach surveillance and patrols. We will also continue our partnership with Marine Parks Branch -Department of Fisheries to reopen and co-manage the Pulau Tinggi Hatchery, creating an economically viable alternative to the illegal egg trade for local communities. Through our continued management of the Tengah Island Hatchery, patrols of the Besar Island Group beaches, and information gathering from island communities, we will fill knowledge gaps by contributing to a baseline study on the nesting turtle populations across the Mersing Islands. Our public awareness campaign will focus on sea turtles and the threats they face and include community activities such as beach cleans/clean-ups, which will promote sustainable living and custodianship of the island’s natural environment.

Through this project, we will improve marine biodiversity in the Mersing area, increase local community awareness and involvement in conservation, and promote sustainable eco-tourism practices as an alternative economic model for Mersing.

Through this project, we plan to increase the marine biodiversity and populations of green and hawksbill sea turtles across the Mersing area, by reducing the illegal harvest, trade and consumption of sea turtle eggs from the islands. Through the operation of ethically managed hatcheries, we will provide an alternative source of income to egg collectors who are currently harvesting eggs to sell for consumption.

TIC will continue to manage the Pulau Tengah Hatchery which receives eggs from local licenced egg collectors and also from beach and boat patrols of the islands in the Besar Group. By patrolling the islands daily, nesting beaches are monitored, providing vital information on the spatial and temporal nesting activity across these islands. Where possible, poaching is prevented by transferring eggs to the hatchery and data is also collected on the frequency of nest poaching, and shared with the Department of Fisheries.

The Pulau Tengah Hatchery is funded with support from Batu Batu Resort and its guests through nest adoptions and donations. We aim to replicate this model across other island groups in the Mersing area to demonstrate that tourism revenues can be used to support marine biodiversity and provide local communities with an alternative livelihood through eco-tourism, and that this model can reduce the over-exploitation of marine resources.

The Department of Fisheries (DoF) previously operated a hatchery on Pulau Tinggi. The hatchery has not been in use for several years, due to facility upgrading, and TIC aims to continue our strategic partnership with Department of Fisheries in the co-management of this hatchery with collaboration with the local island community. We aim to train and employ local egg collectors, some of whom are currently selling eggs for consumption, in the monitoring of turtle nesting beaches and the protection of nests. The reopening of the hatchery will provide an easy and economic alternative to poaching eggs for consumption, and also create a keystone ecotourism attraction for tourists and tourism operators on Pulau Tinggi, demonstrating the economic value to the local community in allowing turtle nests to hatch successfully.

We aim to work with the local Mersing communities to raise awareness of sea turtle conservation and the threats they are facing in the area. This will be carried out through stakeholder engagement meetings and workshops, social media, poster campaigns and the continuation of the Pasukan Pendidik Ekologi Dan Alam Sekitar (PEDAS) educational programme in Mersing schools. We plan to expand the PEDAS programme to the Pula Tinggi School, to engage local youth in the conservation of sea turtles and to reduce the future demand in eggs for consumption.

Through increased nesting beach patrolling, engagement with egg collectors and the involvement of the wider island communities, we plan to collect baseline data on the sea turtle populations across all five of the Mersing Island Groups (Besar, Tinggi, Sibu, Aur and Permangil). This will be vital in filling current knowledge gaps and influencing future local policy and planning.

The training of local communities in nesting beach patrols and hatchery management will build local capacity and also provide a model example of community-based enforcement of the Marine Park through which to engage Department of Fisheries for long-term sustainable enforcement of the Marine Park area.

In our role as part of the Sustainable Travel Mersing - Destination Coordination Group*, we will share information on the management of sea turtle populations, key habitats, project successes, lessons learnt and suggested best practice for Mersing with members of the Group. This will then be integrated into the Sustainable Tourism Policy for Mersing which will be drafted by the Destination Coordination Group, giving the project the potential to influence long-term local policy and planning for the conservation of sea turtle populations in the region and reduction of biodiversity ecosystem losses.

*Destination Coordination Group Members - Tengah Island Conservation, Reef Check Malaysia, Batu Batu Resort, Mersing Tourism Association, Majlis Daerah Mersing, Mersing Marine Parks Branch (DoF), Mersing Islands Chief (Penghulu Pulau Pulau).
 

Project Snapshot

Grantee:
Persatuan Pemuliharaan Alam Sekitar Pulau Tengah, Johor (Conservation Society of Tengah Island, Johor)
Country:
Malaysia
Area Of Work:
Biodiversity
Grant Amount:
US$ 32,900.00
Co-Financing Cash:
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 94,300.00
Project Number:
MAL/SGP/OP6/Y5/STAR/BD/2020/20
Status:
Currently under execution

SGP Country office contact

Ms. Shin Shin, Lee
Phone:
603-8689 6055
Email:
Ms. Nurul Fitrah Mohd Ariffin Marican
Email:

Address

Level 10, Menara PJH, No.2, Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, Precinct 2,
Putrajaya, 62100

Country Website