Having suffered a significant reduction in the number of sea turtles and the species’ breeding activities, the central coastal province of Ninh Thuan is making efforts to improve the situation.
Local Nui Chua national park is among rare destinations in Vietnam for sea turtles to lay eggs. It used to host green, loggerhead and hawksbill sea turtles, but only green turtles have returned during nesting season in recent years.
The peak of nesting season in the park falls between June and October. In recent years, the number of sea turtles spotted during the time has dropped.
In 2016, there were 73 turtles nesting, resulting in 1,159 babies released back to the sea. The figures for 2017 were 21 and 681. As of August 2018, only 12 turtles had been spotted looking for a place to lay eggs.
The situation is attributable to climate change, which causes long periods of drought, making the sand lack moisture necessary for the activity.
Nguyen Si Hung, head of the marine conservation office at the park, said it was difficult to monitor sea turtles due to seasonal migration, while the use of explosives and chemicals in fishing and overexploitation of coral reefs have damaged their habitat.
Many sea turtles die after getting trapped in fish nets, he noted, adding that they have fewer nesting grounds and less food due to construction projects and pollution.
Since 2000, with the aid of domestic and international organisations, like the Institute of Oceanography in Nha Trang city, the World Wildlife Fund and Global Environment Fund, Nui Chua national park has run a project to survey the visiting turtles and their nesting conditions. The statistics were then used to protect the species, particularly at the three protection zones of Bai Thit, Bai Ngang and Bai Hom beaches.
The park has built a facility to treat turtles saved from captivity, with volunteers trained to monitor the animals during their nesting time and protect the eggs. The volunteers join patrols along the beach of the park’s rescue team and carry out communications campaigns on the matter.
Since 2013, the park has saved and released 4,380 sea turtles back to the wild.
Also joining the efforts, the Ninh Thuan authorities have requested intensified inspections of the captivity, transport and distribution of sea turtles and their eggs in the locality, with strict punishment imposed on violators.