Illegal fishing and poaching is on the rise in Kenya, also due to reduced surveillance due to COVID-19. Sea turtles near Marereni, Kenya, are the most devastated.
According to the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI), poachers and illegal fishing are mainly responsible for 80 percent of sea turtle deaths in the city. It represents more than 200 turtles.
“We’re suspecting that trawler operators could be coming closer to the shores, hence endangering marine life,” says Thomas Mkare, a biologist at KMFRI, adding that the number of turtle deaths is just too high. “We could lose them soon,” he says.
Most species of sea turtles live in Kenya
There are only 7 species of sea turtles in the world, and 5 of them are found in Kenya. The pandemic has left no one in the area to monitor illegal fishing. This is an opportunity for poachers who are not afraid to approach the coast to get the turtles. Fishermen who fish here illegally use a technique that, in addition to fish, also catch turtles that suffocate and die. Illegal fishing threatens all 5 species of turtles that live here. Green sea turtles are most at risk, with illegal fishing accounting for 50% of deaths. Illegal fishing is not the only problem. Poachers, who are responsible for 20 percent of deaths, are also a problem. The turtles catch and then sell the turtle meat to the black market.
“We found lots of turtles dead along the shorelines. Some we’re able to identify their species, but the majority we can’t as their shells are totally dismantled beyond recognition,” says Sammy Safari, a community liaison with the Kenya-based nonprofit Local Ocean Conservation.
Although there has been illegal fishing and poaching in this area for a long time, it has never been so large-scale.
How to solve the problem?
To solve the problem, observers need to be patrolled here and turtle excluder devices must be used when fishing. An ideal step would also be to create a marine protected area to protect corals and seagrasses near Marereni.
Image credit: YT screenshot – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouzLcUAuDXo