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Marinduque Mainland from Tres Reyes Islands

Marinduque Mainland from Tres Reyes Islands
View of Mainland Marinduque from Tres Reyes Islands-Click on Photo to link to Marinduque Awaits You

Monday, April 12, 2010

Marinduque Seeks Sea Turtles (Pawikan) Habitat

Here's the latest news on the Sea Turtles Conservation Project in Marinduque

Marinduque seeks ‘Pawikan’ Habitat by G Querubin

FREQUENT SIGHTings and efforts to rescue sea turtles or “pawikan” in Marinduque have prompted local environment officials and advocates to work double time to have the island-province declared a critical habitat of the marine creatures.

Efren de los Reyes, acting head of the protected areas, wildlife and coastal zone management unit of the province, said the declaration would enable those concerned to initiate measures to reduce or eradicate threats to the survival of the turtles.

In the past five years, 44 pawikan have been rescued in different coastal villages of Marinduque and eventually released to the sea, according to the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro). Among them were green sea, Olive Ridleys and the rare Hawksbill turtles, the most threatened species.

Last year alone, 25 were rescued and set free, along with 157 hatchlings.

Rich biodiversity

The presence of the turtles indicates that the province’s coastal areas serve as their nesting grounds, foraging areas and path of migration, De los Reyes said.

It also means that these areas are rich in minute marine biodiversity, Danilo Querijero, Penro chief, said. He pointed out that Marinduque is one of the provinces comprising the Verde Island Passage/Triangle that marine scientists have described as “the center of the epicenter of marine biodiversity.”

“Everybody must be a stakeholder,” De los Reyes said in pushing for a declaration of critical habitat. “The primary beneficiaries of this advocacy will be the community. Village folk should be in charge of their communities’ sustainable development.”

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources defines a critical habitat of threatened species as that “designated based on scientific data, taking into consideration species endemicity or richness and the presence of manmade pressures and threats to the survival of wildlife.”

The known habitat is outside a protected area established under Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act.

Quelling threats

Once a critical pawikan habitat is established, authorities can institute steps to protect the marine animal, such as prohibiting the dumping of waste products, squatting, mineral exploration or extraction, burning, logging and quarrying.

They can also punish violators.

Miguel Magalang, executive director of the Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns (Macec), expressed concern that climate change was now taking its toll on the turtles.

Their “original habitat is getting warmer now, driving them to seek sanctuary in the coastal waters of the province,” he said.

Magalang said Macec had already intensified its pawikan protection and conservation program among the villagers. It has come up with an incentive program for fisherfolk who capture the turtles and report their catch to authorities.

“We give livelihood assistance to fishermen, P5,000 for the big pawikan and P2,500 for the smaller ones,” he said.

The Penro and the Macec are finalizing their action plans after undertaking a thorough survey mapping, assessment, focus group discussions and community consultations.

“The plans and recommendations that will be formulated will be the basis of the DENR (through an executive order by the secretary) or the local government units (through resolutions or ordinances) in declaring Marinduque a critical pawikan habitat,” De los Reyes said.

Help conservation efforts of the sea turtles by reporting to authorities, local residents, who had been searching for turtle eggs in your neighborhood.

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