MisOr villagers call for renewed support on turtle nesting grounds

MAGSAYSAY, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 7 Oct) – Residents and fisherfolks here are calling for renewed added support for the conservation and protection of the turtle nesting grounds in the town’s three-kilometer coastal area in Barangay Candiis.

“Ever since I was a young boy this long stretch of beach has been known to many of our town folks as nesting area for hawksbill sea turtles. In our small way we try to sustain the efforts on the protection of our marine turtles’ nesting sites,” said Venerando Cabresos, barangay chairman of Candiis. “Fisherfolks in our barangay have been volunteers in identifying nesting sites all over the long shoreline,” he added.

Cabresos, when visited last week, pointed out the need for additional support for a sustainable livelihood for the volunteers.

“This is a small fishing community and we don’t have enough resources for ourselves. Over the past few years several projects were made in our area but not enough to sustain the livelihood of the people,” said Cabresos, who was busy helping in putting up a fence on an identified hawksbill turtle nesting ground.

According to barangay records, almost every month villagers witness several large marine turtles making it to shore to lay eggs. Last September, the volunteers identified another nesting site and fenced the area to protect the eggs from predators and warn off beach goers not to trample on the nesting area.

Rolando Pagara, in-charge of the Pawikan Conservation areas, stated that the effort in protecting the nesting sites started back in 1999.

“Since 1999, so much had been done for the protection and preservation of the nesting sites here in Magsaysay with the help of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and non-government organizations. Unfortunately, funding for the projects has ended and most of our volunteers also need additional support for their livelihood,” Pagara said.

He added that monitoring the nesting grounds requires a huge amount of time and effort, taking their time away from earning a living.

Pagara explained the need for protecting the marine turtles that lay eggs in the area.

He said that Magsaysay is a very unique case because most hawksbill turtles elsewhere lay eggs on white sand beaches. Magsaysay’s beaches have brown sand and yet the turtles keep coming back year after year to lay eggs, Pagara noted.

He said that aside from the hawksbill, they also spotted other marine turtles nesting along the Magsaysay coastline. These include the olive ridley and green turtle.

Pagara added that even though most of the fishermen are aware that it is illegal to hunt and catch the turtles, he gets reports of dead turtles washed out in the shoreline without carapace, or the turtle’s shell on its back, a sought-after commodity in the black market.

Hawksbill shells, he said, are the primary source of tortoise shell materials used for decorative and medicinal purposes. He pointed out that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) outlaws the capture and trade of hawksbill sea turtles and products derived from them.

Republic Act No. 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, aims to protect all wildlife, including the marine turtles. Hunting, killing, gathering their eggs, destroying their nests, selling, transporting and mere possession of any part or derivatives is punishable with a fine of P100,000 to P1 million and/or imprisonment of 16 to 12 years.