528 sea turtles released in Sarangani
MAASIM, SARANGANI, Philippines — Sea turtle conservation has been successful in Sarangani province, with 528 hatchlings released in this town’s waters last week.
Nilo Tamoria, regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), said the olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) hatchlings came from a hatchery set up in 2015 at Barangay Lumasal here. This batch of hatchlings was deemed to be the largest group returned to the wild here.
Another sea turtle hatchery has been operating in Maitum town for more than a decade.
Tamoria urged coastal communities to help conserve the marine ecosystem not only for the sake of the sea turtles, locally called pawikan, but also for other marine species as well.
He said waste thrown or washed to the ocean could pose risks to sea turtles, on top of the natural predators that included sharks and other large fish.
Tamoria stressed the importance of preserving the province’s marine ecosystem. “Let us be responsible [in handling] our respective waste. There have been several reports of stranding of pawikan, indicating something is wrong with our coastal environment,” he said in a statement.
Edilbrando Paras, caretaker of the hatchery here, said mature sea turtles continued to nest in the town since the creation of the hatchery four years ago.
“Since the beginning of this year, we have been frequently releasing sea turtle hatchlings to the ocean because of the continued nesting. We expect the releases to go on until July,” he told the Inquirer by telephone on Tuesday.
Joy Oloquin, area superintendent of the Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape (SBPS), earlier said they had created an interagency task force to intensify the monitoring and implementation of protection measures within the 211,913-hectare Sarangani Bay.
She said the SBPS Megafauna Response Team was formed to address the deaths of marine animals, including turtles, in the area.
SBPS data showed that two sea turtles were found dead on the shores of General Santos City and another in Kiamba town early this month.
In the towns of Maasim and Maitum, sea turtle conservation thrives due to the continued awareness campaign by local governments and environment officials.
In this town alone, there are eight known nesting sites that residents help to protect, said Paras, whose family donated the parcel of land where the hatchery had been set up.
Sea turtle species like hawksbill, green turtle and loggerhead also nest in Sarangani.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species classifies the olive ridley, the most common species, as vulnerable, with its population declining.
—Bong S. Sarmiento
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