Turtle project launched to find out more about their time at sea

Research to focus on migration and mating patterns.
Green turtles help to maintain the health of the marine environment by eating seagrass, says a biologist. Courtesy HK Strategies
Green turtles help to maintain the health of the marine environment by eating seagrass, says a biologist. Courtesy HK Strategies

ABU DHABI // There is still much to be learnt about turtles at sea, even though a good amount of research has been done on their nesting environment, marine biologists say.

Towards that end, the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF) is launching a scientific research project, The Gulf Green Turtle Conservation Project, by way of marking World Biodiversity Day.

Over the next four years a team of marine biologists will gather data on the migration and mating patterns of green turtles in the UAE and the region to identify critical marine habitats in need of protection.

The research will include tagging the turtles, sampling their DNA, and performing laparoscopy on male turtles. Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure involving the use of a fibre-optic instrument.

Marina Antonopoulou, a marine programme leader at EWS-WWF, said green turtles were among the few marine animals to consume seagrass. “By doing so, they help to maintain the health of the marine environment,” she said.

Seagrass is vital to many species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans.

Without healthy seagrass beds, many marine species could become extinct.

Paola Ferreira, conservation and climate director at EWS-WWF, said it was important to learn about the potential linkages between green turtles’ nesting and feeding grounds.

“We will be better equipped to develop recommendations towards safeguarding critical marine habitats for turtles and, ultimately, other marine species,” she said.

nalwasmi@thenational.ae

Published: May 22, 2016 04:00 AM

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