Turtle nesting in Jebal Ali Marine Sanctuary

DUBAI, 26th February, 2015 (WAM) — The critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is now starting its nesting season on the shores of Dubai. A nest was observed on 13th February 2015 in the only marine protected area of the emirate, Jebal Ali Marine Sanctuary.

According to Alia Al Harmoodi, Director of Environment Department Dubai Municipality, two false tracks were observed near the nesting site, suggesting that the hawksbill female had previously surfaced to find a suitable nesting location, before finally surfacing a third time to lay her eggs.

Major Ali Saqr Sultan Al Suweidi President, Emirates Marine Environmental Group, EMEG, said that there were a total of 80 eggs with an average recorded diameter of 2.5cm per egg. These turtles are solitary nesters, nesting in low densities on small scattered beaches. Adult females are well adapted for crawling over reefs and rocky areas to reach secluded nesting sites. In order to protect the eggs from poaching and predation by other animals, the eggs were relocated by EMEG staff to a more secured site that had been setup specifically for this purpose.

Aisha Almurr Al Muhery, Director of Marine Environment and Wildlife Section, Dubai Municipality, said that Jebel Ali Marine Sanctuary hosts several Hawksbill turtle nests each year. The Hawksbill turtle is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Hawksbills are important inhabitants of coral reefs. By consuming sponges, they play an important role in the reef community, aiding corals in growth. It’s estimated that one turtle can consume over 1,000 pounds of sponges per year. Without them, sponges have the ability to overgrow corals and suffocate reefs.

The Jebal Ali Marine Sanctuary was declared in 1998 with the main objective of conserving the natural marine resources of Dubai, added Alia Al Harmoodi. The site is under the management of Dubai Municipality in strong partnership with the EMEG. Today, the sanctuary is the only remaining area in Dubai where turtles are observed to nest. Dubai Municipality’s mandate and objective is to make sure that these kind of activities continue for the next generation to experience. Therefore, Dubai Municipality along with EMEG, has taken firm steps to ensure the protection of Hawksbill turtles in the Emirate of Dubai.