Do Marine Protected Areas in the Red Sea Afford Protection to Dugongs and Sea Turtles?
Journal of Biodiversity & Endangered Species
Dugongs (Dugong dugon) and most sea turtles are threatened by gill nets and other human activities worldwide. In the Red Sea these animals are potentially isolated from populations in other areas of the world. This isolation would make recovery following major population decline in the Red Sea unlikely. Protected areas are promoted as a management tool to safeguard these animals from human activities. Elba National Park, Egypt, supports populations of dugongs and sea turtles, as well as a
... g fishing industry. We undertook a survey of fishers to determine if dugongs and sea turtles formed bycatch in Elba National Park. Specifically, we quantified the proportion of fishers operating in Elba National Park who had caught these animals as bycatch in fishing nets and the proportion of fishers who perceived that sea turtle eggs were still collected. This study indicates that at least one protected area in the Red Sea is not achieving conservation objectives relating to these animals. Nine and eighty percent of fishers reported having caught dugongs and sea turtles in nets, respectively. Seven percent of fishers perceived that people still collected turtle eggs. Elba National Park is failing to protect these animals for reasons including: it is managed solely as an IUCN Category VI Protected Area; fishers lack awareness of laws pertaining to these animals; and fishers are highly resource dependent. Potential management strategies to reduce bycatch include the establishment of IUCN Category 1a Protected Areas in important dugong and sea turtle habitat, encouraging fishers to adopt fishing gear that poses less risk to megafauna and raising awareness among fishers of the protected status of dugongs and sea turtles.