Conservation of sea turtles, French Polynesia

Te mana o te moana’s objective is to preserve the marine environment for future generations.  It does this through research, conservation and educational programmes, particularly on the flagship themes of sea turtles, marine mammals, coral reefs and eco-citizenship.

5 of the 7 sea turtle species are present in French Polynesia and 4 of them (Green, Hawksbill, Loggerhead and Olive Ridley) have been rescued by Te mana o te moana’s turtle clinic in Moorea since it was established in 2004.  Living in coastal areas, the Green and Hawksbill turtle are the most common in the area and are a key species on the coral reefs, helping to maintain the balance between corals, sponges and algae and playing a crucial role in the health of the ecosystem and the economy of French Polynesia.

Victims of heavy poaching for meat, accidental entrapment in fishing lines and pollution, the project aims to enhance the conservation of the turtles. Using volunteers and working in partnership with local authorities and other organisations, this will be done through:
– enhanced care of sick and injured turtles at the clinic, updating operating and care protocol, additional medical equipment and creating a new pool for seriously ill turtles
– protecting and relocating nests on the beach where necessary
– raising awareness amongst the local community about turtle conservation, the threats they face and the importance they play in the health of the coral reefs and the local economy
– producing and distributing 2,000 copies of a booklet about sea turtles in French Polynesia in French, English and Tahitian
– collecting data for the scientific community about the threats, nesting area and survival rates of the animals.

The Update

This project continued with many activities it has been undertaking over a number of years including the Turtle Clinic, the green turtle nesting monitoring programme and educational projects.  In addition and thanks to funding from Pacsafe, via EOCA, the sustainability of the clinic, as well as the effectiveness of the existing programmes were strengthened:
– new ponds were built for sea turtle rehabilitation, giving sick and injured turtles their own space in which to recover
– new fridges, freezers and storage cabinets allowed more turtle food and tools / equipment to be stored properly and a new table for surgical procedures
– new information boards in and around the clinic for visitors and to increase public awareness
– public events for local communities, schools and visitors.  One competition was launched for children to write a ‘great sea turtle tale’ – the winner of which would be read out by Thomas Pesquet aboard the International Space Station to raise awareness of the marine environment of French Polynesia
– sea turtle nesting monitoring and data collection, 90 nests were recorded during the 2016/17 nesting season, and work was undertaken during hatching event to ensure that hatchlings were not disorientated by lights from the beaches as they headed for the sea
– writing a review of sea turtle threats in French Polynesia
– rehabilitation of a number of sick and inured turtles at the clinic, including those who were sick from ingestion of plastic

Image: Sea Turtle