World Turtle Day Virtual Open House- Session 4: Sea Turtle Economy

By defining turtle economy as an area of the production, distribution and trade, as well as consumption of turtle related goods and services by different agents, we acknowledge the broader sense of human-turtle interactions. It therefore includes consumptive uses, i.e. trade of turtle parts, as well as non-consumptive uses such as tourism as well as turtle conservation. Some of these activities are at opposite ends of each other while others are a complex mix of both. They all revolve around turtles, and would not exist without. That simple fact is the commonality that is often overlooked, creating conflicts when it should actually help bring people together towards sustaining our turtle species. That is the focus that this session aims to achieve by bringing the perspectives from various users of the Malaysian turtle economy, for example, divers, people who are working on turtle conservation projects etc.

The scope of Turtle Economy expands beyond the traditional economic activities related to turtle tourism but also turtle-related services provided such as research and conservation that is gained sometimes through activities similar to those provided in tourism. 

Under this broad scope, panelists shared their current involvement in the Malaysian turtle economy. Each panelist made clear the objectives of their respective activities; how their goods or services are contributing towards society; their efforts to make them sustainable; and finally the challenges and opportunities they faced.

Sofia Johari was the speaker for Kudat Turtle Conservation Society. Run by Roland, the Kudat Turtle Conservation Society is based at the south end of the Bavang Jamal beach. There’s an education centre nearby which assists the society on night vigils at local beaches to protect the eggs of green and hawksbill turtles.

Sofia Johari, Kudat Turtle Conservation Society

  • Education and awareness through research and monitoring
  • Activities involved in sea turtle conservation: enforcement, rehabilitation of foraging and resting ground through research and monitoring
  • Partnership with tour operators, local agencies and academic institutions
  • Access to eco-tourism industry (community based activities)
  • Objectives protect sea turtle population educate the public on sea turtle population in ecosystem
  • Project sites at Kg Bavang Jareal, Kg Inukiran, Kg Simpang Mengayau
  • Patrolling of nesting beach and relocation of nests
  • Capacity building: research and monitoring increasing knowledge in public have been working with educational institutions
  • Capacity building: community cultural products 
  • Promotional exhibitions
  • Challenges: 1) most people expect that the turtle conservation program package run by these communities should be cheap, however, it is not easy to fund such projects at low costs. 2) Lack of funding to do capacity building activities. 3) Travel restriction during MCO which cut the supply of visitors. 4) Travel restriction during MCO also cut income severely for conservation activities
  • Opportunities: various online platforms available. University and government sectors starting to acknowledge conservation group contributions in sea turtle conservation. In Kudat a few hotels supported and promoted community based conservation. Sabah Tourism Board also promoted community based tourism.

Abida Zaaba and Luca Voscort were the speakers for Lang Tengah Turtle Watch. Lang Tengah relies on constant and continued presence on the island, as this is the main deterrent to egg poachers. Living 24 hours a day in the camp, the volunteers regularly patrol the nesting beaches on the island by night, relocating any nests that are laid on other beaches back to the safety of Turtle Beach.

Abida Zaaba and Luca Voscort, Lang Tengah Turtle Watch

  • Sea turtle conservation and prevention of poaching activities (reduced by a large extent) in lang tengah
  • Volunteer program
  • Nightly patrols on nesting beaches (turtle bay), do data collection, morphology of turtle, metal tagging, face identity
  • Relocations of nests to safe sites
  • Public outreach
  • Tanjong jara resort
  • Goal: Prevention of sea turtle eggs from going market for consumption
  • Purchase eggs from tender holder
  • Incubation and monitoring of eggs
  • Patrolling of nesting beaches
  • Public outreach and nest adoptions. Public engagement with guests at resort, locals students in the community
  • Over 60k eggs protected
  • 6.5k local and uni students informed
  • 15 tonnes of garbage cleaned from beaches and worked w msian authorities and leading academics to increase global knowledge of marine conservation

David McCann, Scuba Junkie

  • Registered Malaysian society SEAS, contribution: forging link between dive industry and turtle conversation. Turtle hatchery programme, rehabilitation centre, turtle photo ID studies
  • Mabul turtle hatchery and mabu turtle rehabilitation centre
  • Developing conversation sectors
  • Running turtle week

Melisa Chan, Rahmat Abdul Wahab are in charge of the Perhentian Turtle Project. The Perhentian Turtle Project (PTP) was officially established in 2015 as a sea turtle research and conservation initiative under Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures Sdn. Bhd. in the Perhentian Islands Marine Park. They work in close collaboration with the local community, stakeholders, Department of Fisheries (DOF) and Marine Parks Division. Their work includes kayak surveys, nightly beach patrols, sea turtle stranding response, and awareness campaigns.

I was attracted to this event because I have seen many pictures and videos online about how marine debris is harming the sea turtle population and I was curious as to what were the measures taken to restore the sea turtle population.

I learnt that maintaining diversification of how income is obtained is a way to reach out to the public. Additionally, it also important to make sure that local communities can use online platforms is important. Local tourism is hit hard by COVID and will take years to rebuild, thus the sea turtle economy would need all our support to tackle this issue.

I learnt that whatever role the speakers play in the sea turtle economy, they are all very vital in maintaining the population of sea turtles in Malaysia and spreading the message of sea turtle conservation was equally conveyed in all parties.

I would like to visit the beaches or the resorts that the speakers have mentioned in their talk and participate in one of the programmes organised by these communities, to show my support towards sea turtle conservation!

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