Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia (IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU)
There are six species of marine turtle found in the waters of South-East Asia and the Indian Ocean. All are endangered, facing threats from accidental capture in industrial fishing operations, unsustainable harvesting at nesting sites and in near-shore waters and, destruction of nesting beaches from inappropriate coastal development. Due to their migratory nature, marine turtles in this region regularly cross national boundaries, and there is a need to better co-ordinate conservation efforts at the international level.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia was finalised in Manila, the Philippines in June 2001, and came into effect in September 2001. The MoU provides a framework through which States of the region, as well as other concerned States, can work together to conserve and replenish depleted marine turtle populations for which they share responsibility. It acknowledges a wide range of threats to marine turtles, including habitat destruction, direct harvesting and trade, fisheries by-catch, pollution and other man-induced sources of mortality. Accordingly, the MoU includes a comprehensive region-wide plan containing 24 programmes and 105 specific activities which aim to reverse the decline of marine turtle populations throughout the region. The measures to be taken focus on reducing threats, conserving critical habitat, exchanging scientific data, increasing public awareness and participation, promoting regional cooperation and seeking resources for implementation.
The UK ratified the MoU on behalf of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) in March 2002. The BIOT hosts significant nesting populations of critically endangered hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata and endangered green turtles Chelonia mydas, with about 300 of each nesting annually. Endangered leatherback turtles Dermochelys coriacea are a vagrant in the area.
JNCC provided scientific support to the UK delegation at the first meeting of Signatory States to the Indian Ocean - Southeast Asian Marine Turtle MoU held in Bangkok, Thailand in January 2003. Nearly 20 Signatory and observer States participated in the meeting, together with interested non-government and international government organisations from around the region. The UK delegation played a significant role in the outcomes of the meeting which established an advisory committee, reviewed implementation of the conservation and management plan, the format for national reporting and identified complementary regional initiatives. Since then, JNCC has represented the UK at each meeting of the Signatory States and provided scientific advice to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in the compilation of the yearly report.