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Service Awards First Grants for International Marine Turtle Conservation

June 23, 2005

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it is awarding a total of $89,610 in grants to assist in the conservation of international marine turtles. Once abundant throughout the world, today, marine turtle populations in the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are now at a fraction of their levels prior to human-over exploitation. almost all marine turtle populations have suffered significant declines due to habitat degradation and commercial exploitation. unsustainable trade putting their future survival in the wild at risk. This massive decline has resulted in almost all species of marine turtles becoming endanger of extinction.

"Sea turtles are an ancient species, valuable for economic, cultural and aesthetic many reasons." said Acting Service Director Matt Hogan. "Thanks to Congress, the Service can tap into funds set aside for marine turtle conservation to lend a hand in the important global conservation work now underway to restore these species to health."

The grants support a wide variety of marine turtle conservation and research efforts, including: sponsoring population assessments of loggerhead and green turtles in Oman; providing incentives for local fishers to donate live captured turtles for tag and release rather than consumption in Nigeria; developing a sustainable and effective marine turtle program for the world's largest nesting leatherback population in Gabon and Congo, Africa; and, training local people to protect sea turtle nests at Playa Ventura in Mexico.

Six of the seven marine turtle species are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act: of the seven marine turtle species are considered imperiled by the World Conservation Union: the green turtle, the leatherback, the loggerhead, the hawksbill, the Kemp's ridley, and the olive ridley. Only the flatback turtle which occurs in the near shore and inshore waters of Australia, is not currently considered imperiled. All marine turtles require tropical, subtropical or temperate oceanic beaches for nesting.

Because marine turtles take 10 to 40 years to reach sexual maturity and, have complex life cycles; also, they require undisturbed oceanic beaches for nesting, and depend on both marine and beach habitats, they are extremely vulnerable to human exploitation and habitat degradation. All marine turtles require tropical, subtropical or temperate oceanic beaches for nesting. Major threats to these animals species include: both unlawful poaching and lawful over-exploitation harvesting of eggs and meat;, drowning as by-catch in fishing and shrimping operations;, beach front and coastal water development; and pollution, and degradation of oceanic grass beds and coral reefs.

The international marine turtle grants were made possible by the U.S. Congress's passage of the Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2004. Under this law, Congress established a fund within the Multinational Species Conservation Fund to assist to assist in other countries' marine turtle the conservation efforts; of marine turtles and their nesting habitats in foreign countries. In FY04, Congress appropriated the fund was appropriated for $100,000, including administrative costs. In addition to these appropriated U.S. funds, used for assistance to on-the-ground sea turtle conservation efforts, the Service has was able to use this money to leverage an additional $182,600 in conservation support of sea turtle conservations from non-government organizations, for-profit private businesses, companies, and other government entities agencies involved in marine turtle conservation.

Marshall Jones, Service Deputy Director, today testified before Congress on behalf of the reauthorization of the Great Apes Conservation Act and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Improvement Act. These Acts are part of the Multinational Species Conservation Fund which also provides support for Asian elephant, African elephant, tiger, and rhinoceros conservation programs, allowing overseas wildlife researchers and managers to be more effective in protecting their countries' wildlife and habitat resources. Although relatively modest, the funds support on-the-ground conservation efforts and leverage significant additional resources from other partners.

Marshall Jones's Testimony (PDF file)

For more information on the different conservation funds the Service administers, visit:

"The Marine Turtle Conservation Fund was established by the United States Congress in recognition of the global plight these species faces," notes Earl Possardt, International Sea Turtle Specialist for the Service. "Grant programs such as this are not only important for the survival of sea turtles, but also show the world that the U.S. government is a leader in international wildlife conservation."

For information on how to apply for international marine turtle conservation assistance, please visit our marine turtle program website.

2005 Marine Turtle Conservation Fund
FWS Total: $89,610.00
Total leveraged funds: $182,675
Total grants awarded: 7
Total proposals received: 55
Total requested: $1.29 million

Conservation of loggerhead and green sea turtles in Oman:. In partnership with the Marine Research Foundation. To enable Omani authorities to conduct accurate population assessments each nesting season and to increase adult survival through the rescue of stranded nesting females during the morning nest surveys. FWS: $15,000.00; Leveraged funds: $15,400.00.

Conservation of the Pearl Cays hawksbill rookery in Nicaragua:. In partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society. To promote the recovery of the Pearl Cays hawksbill rookery through nesting activity surveys, educational outreach, local and regional capacity-building, and providing incentives for local people to donate live captured turtles for tag and release rather than consumption. FWS: $15,000.00; Leveraged funds: $25,200.00.

Conservation of Pacific leatherbacks on secondary beaches in Mexico:. In partnership with the World Wildlife Fund. This project is focused on training local people to protect all nests at Playa Ventura. FWS: $15,000.00; Leveraged funds: $11,953.00.

Community based in-situ marine turtle nest protection, research and community education program on marine turtles in Rekawa, southern Sri Lanka:. In partnership with Turtle Conservation Project. FWS: $5,000.00; Leveraged funds: ($23,635)

Tanzania community-based marine turtle conservation program: In partnership with World Wildlife Fund-Tanzania. To protect turtles and their habitats in Tanzania and enable coastal communities and local government authorities to develop the skills and capacity to participate in improved decision making about the conservation, ownership and management of turtles for the benefit of the marine and coastal environment and local livelihoods. The project?s long-term outcomes include the development of a much-needed Recovery and Action Plan for Tanzania. FWS: $4,610.00; Leveraged funds: $34,937.00.

Sea turtle research and conservation in Gabon: the largest leatherback population in the world. In partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society. To develop a sustainable and effective marine turtle program in Gabon and Congo (Conkouati) with a special focus on leatherback nesting beaches by organizing a meeting with all partners, government authorities and stakeholders to coordinate and develop leatherback nesting beach priorities and activities, and conduct at least eight aerial survey throughout the 2005-2006 nesting season. FWS: $30,000.00; Leveraged funds: $57,250.00.

Borgor Point sea turtle monitoring and conservation program:. In partnership with the Save My Future Foundation. To promote the long term survival of the sea turtle population, including the sustained recovery of depleted stock, taking into consideration the integrated well-being and needs of the coastal communities. Activities will include community outreach, fishing cooperatives, increasing fishing income to provide an alternative to hunting sea turtles, and the training of 10 veteran sea turtle hunters and community members to patrol on nesting beaches. FWS: $5,000.00; Leveraged funds: $14,300.00.

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