Senegal fishermen shelter sea turtles
SAFETY | NET 147 sq km sandy beach created to protect endangered species
Joal-Fadiouth, Senegal, July 3 : In a classic case of “poacher turning gamekeeper”, the fishermen of Senegal have joined forces to protect one of the ocean’s most endangered species — the sea turtle.
Three species can be found on the Senegal coast in west Africa. The most populous is the green turtle and they are joined by the loggerhead and leatherhead which can weigh over 600 kilogrammes.
They are all beautiful creatures but each is threatened by pollution, poaching and, even now, the fishing net.
“Once we were the biggest eaters of turtles, now we have become their biggest protectors,” says Abdou Karim Sall, a fisherman who is now the manager of a protected marine zone through which the turtles pass.
Some 30 years ago, turtle meat was sold in the streets of Joal, one of the most important fishing ports in Senegal, and in Fadiouth, the port’s sister village built on an artificial island made from heaps of shells.
“We ate them in the street, we cooked them at home,” says the 56-yearold Sall who leads the management committee for the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of JoalFadiouth, two hours south of Dakar.
Founded in 2004, and backed by the government, local authorities and several associations, the MPA stretches over 147 square kilometres (57 square miles) and is made up of sandy beaches along a marine strip eight kilometres wide, as well as a network of mangroves and an area of savannah.
It is an area for the protection of endangered migratory species, such as the sea turtle.
Senegalese fishermen save a sea turtle from their fishing nets in Joal, Senegal, West Africa. — AFP