3 Nov 2004

Giant leather backed turtles in Pacific threatened with extinction

4:25 pm on 3 November 2004

Marine environmentalists say community intervention will be a major factor in whether the giant leather back turtles in the Pacific can survive..

At a forum in Solomon Islands, delegates from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomons, say unless there is swift action, the leather back turtles could become extinct.

A recent report from Conservation International shows the population of leather backs in the Pacific has fallen by 97 per cent in the last 22 years.

A World Wide Fund for Nature spokeswoman, Liz Wilson, says the leather backs are the most endangered sea turtles.

She says the biggest danger for them is being caught in fishing nets, and people taking their eggs.

"There is definite need for communities to continue their monitoring programme. They are basically the back-bone for leather back conservation in the Western Pacific. Without them being there and providing the data and being on site, it's hard to be able to come up with managment issues because the experts come in and out.But the experts can also provide the more sofisticated tagging data. So a combination of both the science and the community based knowledge will probably be the way forward for leather back conservation in the Pacific."

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Ms Wilson says there also need to be stronger policies at a national level to support the community based conservation initiatives.