Lockdown - damage to biodiversity: INLUCC alerts to marine turtle trade in Sfax
26/04/2020 15:01, TUNIS/Tunisia

(TAP) - The National Anti-Corruption Authority (INLUCC) has been alerted about sea turtle trading practices in Sfax.

In its daily report, published on Saturday, April 25, the INLUCC said it had received an alert concerning "a resident in the locality of Slatnia, near the Bouhamed Station in Sfax, who was selling large sea turtles to the public in front of his home".

If this were true, it would be a transgression of the law on the protection of this endangered species all over the world and naturally in Tunisia.

This species, which is vital for marine biodiversity and the health of the oceans, is protected in Tunisia by the law on the protection of cetaceans (Law No. 94-13 of 31 July 1994) as well as by the decree of the Ministry of Agriculture of 28 September 1995, regulating the practice of fishing activities.

These regulations prohibit the capture in territorial waters of monk seals, cetaceans and marine turtles, as well as their trade and holding in captivity.

Contacted by TAP, Wassim Amdrous, coordinator of programme on marine turtle conservation in Tunisia, launched in December 2019 by the WWF-North Africa Office, said WWF will coordinate with local associations in Sfax, including the APNES (Environment and Nature Protection of Sfax) and the «Association des Jeunes Sciences» in Kerkennah, to prevent all poaching practices of sea turtles in the region.

He said certain habits of consumption of sea turtle meat and its use in traditional medicine still exist in Tunisia, particularly in the Kerkennah Islands.

WWF's objective is "to achieve a favourable conservation status for marine turtle species in the Mediterranean, with increased protection in Tunisia, due to its strategic geographical position as a habitat for these species".

The Tunisian coasts, mainly the Gulf of Gabès, are, according to the WWF North Africa Office, of paramount importance for marine turtle populations throughout the Mediterranean.

Three species of marine turtles, among about 7 in the world, are known in Tunisia: the loggerhead, often called Caretta Caretta, the green sea turtle and the leatherback sea turtle.

These species are increasingly threatened by marine pollution, accidental fishing and certain feeding habits.

Their existence is, however, vital for the health of the oceans because they regulate marine and coastal ecosystems and thanks to them, marine areas are naturally cleaned up, according to the WWF.

In Tunisia, there has been a Marine Turtle Care and Rescue Centre at the National Institute of Marine Science and Technology (NSTM) in Monastir since 2004.

This establishment carries out autopsies on dead turtles to determine the cause of death and provides care for turtles stranded alive or brought back in the case of accidental capture.

"SeaTuMed" network was recently launched in Tunisia. Its action focuses on the protection of marine turtles on the Tunisian coast.

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