Marine Turtles of Sri Lanka; Status, Issues, Threats and Conservation Strategies
This paper is an attempt to review the results of marine turtle surveys carried out in Sri Lanka by National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (Research arm of Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Sri Lanka) during the past. Of the seven living sea turtle species recorded in the world, five species were reported in the coastal belt of Sri Lanka coming for nesting: Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas),Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea). The south and southwest coastline of Sri Lanka comprises the largest marine turtle rookeries. All five species are still recorded at Kosgoda,Induruwa, Rekawa and Bundala. In 2014, the highest nesting density was recorded (298 nests km-1year-1) at Kosgoda beach. The next highest densities were reported at Ahungalla (105 nests km-1year-1)and Induruwa (94 nest km-1year-1respectively. Approximately 68% and 30% of the total nesting turtles were Green turtles and the Olive ridley turtles respectively. The rest is shared by other three species. The highest nesting frequency of the green turtle was recorded during the period from February to April whereas the highest nesting frequency of olive ridley turtle was recorded during the period from November to March. There were fifteen operational sea turtle hatcheries situated along the western and southwest coastal belts from Mount Lavania to Koggala. Some of these hatcheries could effectively salvage the number of turtle nests that would otherwise be lost to egg poachers and natural causes such as predations and erosion.
Incidental by-catch, illegal poaching of eggs, natural predation on eggs and hatchlings and habitat change and destruction are some of obvious threats faced by marine turtles in Sri Lanka. Number of strategies and measures are being applied to minimize the interactions with sea turtles through modifications of fishing gear and fishing practices. In Sri Lanka, marine turtles are protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance administered by the Department of Wildlife Conservation since 1st March 1937 (Amended 20th July 1972) and the Fisheries and
Aquatic Resources Act of 1996. In 1979.Sri Lanka entered into the CITES agreement. Currently, a number of in-situ nest monitoring and protection programmes are conducted by Department of Wildlife Conservation southern coast of Sri Lanka.. Development and implementation of standardized, scientifically ratified, and legally enforceable set of guidelines is of foremost priority.