20th Celebration of the IOSEA Marine Turtles MOU during World Sea Turtle Day
South Africa is one of the 131 Member States that are signatory to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (also known as CMS or Bonn Convention). The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals is an environmental treaty under the support of the United Nations Environment Programme. It is concerned with the conservation of wildlife and their habitats on a global scale and aims to conserve terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range. CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures. The CMS was adopted in Bonn, Germany, on 23 June 1979, and entered into force on 1 November 1983. South Africa became Party to the CMS on 1 December 1991.
A number of agreements have been concluded to date under the auspices of CMS. These include seven (7) agreements, 19 MoUs and three (3) special species initiatives. One of the MoUs signed by South Africa on 22 February 2005 is the MoU on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia (IOSEA Marine Turtle MOU). As part of the MoU, South Africa as well as other states, non-government organisations and range states can work together to conserve migratory turtle populations and their habitats.
The ultimate aim of the IOSEA agreement is to maintain and recover marine turtle populations by promoting cooperation among Governments and other organizations that share this common objective. Also, it recognises that marine turtles have a myriad of socio-economic values, and the agreement seeks to assure that any consumptive or non-consumptive use of turtles for the benefit of human beings is sustainable well into the future. There are six species of marine turtles covered by the MoU. They are the Loggerhead Caretta caretta, Green Chelonia mydas, Hawksbill Eretmochelys imbricata, Leatherback Dermochelys coriacea, and the occasional visitor Olive Ridley Lepidochelys olivacea, and Flatback Natator depressus. The Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green and Hawksbill are relatively common to South Africa’s waters. The Flatback turtle is unlikely to be found in South African waters as it is restricted to the north-west Atlantic seaboard, or northern Australian continental waters.
The nesting site of the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Leatherback (Demorchelys coriacea) along the beaches of Kwa-Zulu Natal with the bulk of nesting for the western Indian Ocean populations taking place between Cape Vidal and South African/Mozambican border in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park are classified as a protected area in accordance with the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act (No. 57 of 2003) (“NEM:PAA”), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site as well as one of the designated Ramsar Sites which are wetlands of international importance. iSimangaliso is also one of the IOSEA Network of Sites of Importance.
South Africa will form part of the virtual celebration of the 20th anniversary of the agreement. Part of the planned events includes the celebration of the World Sea Turtle Day held annually on 16 June. The secretariat proposed that to maximise the opportunity for public participation, World Sea Turtle day will be hosted on 19 June 2021. This will be a ‘round-the-clock virtual event’, streamed through a joined channel, with events throughout the region ‘passing the baton’ to each other. For the celebration on 19 June, five ‘Global Events’ are planned to be hosted at different times by the sub-regions and the Secretariat, and a total of thirteen other ‘local events’ are available for signatory states to host. It is thus, that South Africa as a Signatory State to the IOSEA Marine Turtles MoU is set to participate in this celebration and host an event on 19 June 2021.
The department, together with the aquariums and academia will host numerous events (including virtual events) for the World Sea Turtle’s Day. They include the following:
- Virtual Event recording at uShaka Marine World
- Sea Turtle Tour at iSimangaliso for school learners
- Beach Clean ups in Durban beaches