Sharjah's hawksbill turtles celebrate World Oceans Day

The critically endangered species were returned to sea on Sunday after being rehabilitated in Sharjah.

Baby hawksbill sea turtles crawl across the sand to the sea after emerging from their nest at the top of the beach. Galen Clarke/The National
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A group of hawksbill turtles were returned to the sea on Sunday – World Oceans Day.

The turtles are members of a critically endangered species found in areas including the Arabian Gulf.

Their release was organised by the Sharjah Aquarium, the Environment and Protected Areas Authority and the Sharjah Museums Department.

The global population of hawksbills, named for their narrow head and shape of their beak, has dropped by 80 per cent in just three generations despite international conventions banning hunting and trade.

They have been threatened in recent years by human encroachment, particularly construction and coastline activity that threaten coral reefs, one of the turtles’ natural habitats.

Other threats include fishing, pollution and eggs being stolen from nesting beaches.

The turtles released at the Mangrove Natural Reserve in Khor Kalba were found by members of the public and taken to Sharjah Aquarium, which has been running a programme to protect and rehabilitate the creatures for the past three years.

Ismail Al Bloushi, a marine biologist, has led a Sharjah Aquarium team rehabilitating turtles for their release.

Manal Ataya, director general of Sharjah Museums Department, said: “Sharjah has a rich maritime heritage and marking World Oceans Day highlights the vital role that Sharjah Aquarium plays in educating the public about the need to act as custodians of our ocean.”