MARINE TURTLES, DUGONGS AND THE HABITATS DISTRIBUTION

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 MARINE TURTLES, DUGONGS AND THE HABITATS
DISTRIBUTION IN THE RED SEA AND GULF OF ADEN
                        (YEMEN) 
                              

                              

                              

                              

                     Aref A. Hamoud

     The General Authority for Marine Science Research

                       (HODEIDAH) 

                              

                              

                              

                        October 2010
Table of Contents
1. GENERAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION ............................................................. 3
    1.1 Geographic Framework .............................................................................................. 3
    1.2 Demography ............................................................................................................... 4
    1.3 Marine and Coastal Environment ............................................................................... 5
       1.3.1 Turtles .................................................................................................................. 6
       1.3.2 Dugongs ............................................................................................................... 7
2 The Relevant legislations .................................................................................................. 8
    2.1 The Environmental Protection Law (EPL) No 26 of 1995 ........................................ 8
    2.2 Law No (2) of 2006. ................................................................................................... 8
3. Turtles Habitat Distribution ............................................................................................. 9
4. Distribution and abundance of marine turtles ................................................................ 11
5. Nature and magnitude of threats to turtles ..................................................................... 15
6. National conservation priorities for turtles .................................................................... 15
7. Current turtle-related conservation initiatives ............................................................... 15
8. Proposed future research and / or conservation action .................................................. 16
References .......................................................................................................................... 17
 




                                              
1. GENERAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION
1.1 Geographic Framework

The Republic of Yemen is located in the southwestern part of the
Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia in the north, the
Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden in the south, Oman in the east, and
the Red Sea in the west. Yemen’s coastline is about 2,500 km long,
roughly one-third of which faces the Red Sea and the remaining two-
third in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea. It has more than 130
Islands located in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden/Arabian Sea. The
total land area is 530,000 square km. The climate is humid tropical
with mean annual temperature ranges from less than 15 °C in the
highlands to 30 °C in the coastal plain. Rainfall varies widely, from
less than 50 mm in the coastal plains and interior desert to more than
700 mm in the Western Highlands.

The Gulf of Aden coastline is about 1,400 km long and is
characterized by rocky cliffs alternating with stretches of sandy
beach. The coastline of the Gulf of Aden extends from Bab- al-
Mandab at the southern entrance of the Red Sea in a southeast
direction to Aden, and then eastwards to Ras Baqashwa near Sharma
in Hadhramut Governorate. It then continue further east into the
coastline of Mahra Governorate overlooking the Arabian Sea. Mahra
coastline is 550km approximately extending from Damkh-Hesai in
the west bordering Hadhramut coastline to Hawf at the eastern part
bordering the Omani coast (Bonfiglioli and Hariri, 2004). Most of the
near shore areas are soft substrate high energy environments. Other
typical features are alluvial fans formed by wadi mouths, raised
beaches with wave-cut platforms and pediments, headlands,
escarpments and dunes. Beaches usually consist of sand on
underlying rock. In the Bir Ali area, volcanic activity has resulted in
lava intrusions (SAP, 2001).
Yemen's Red Sea coastline, approximately 730km long, extends from
the Saudi Arabian border (16° 23'N, 42° 47'E) to the Straits of Bab
Al-Mandab (12° 30'N, 43° 30'E). The coastline includes sand flats,
pebble-beaches and cliffs. There are approximately 100 shelf islands
off Yemen's coast (Red Sea), ranging in size from <100m2 to 112km2
(Kamaran Island). Off-Shelf Islands including Jabal At-Tair, Az
Zubayr group, Zuqar and Hanish group are of volcanic origin,
composed predominantly of basalt (Turak & Brodie 1999).

West-east profile of Yemen’s Red Sea region (Figure 1.1) showing
five distinct marine and coastal environments:

    1.   Off-shelf Island
    2.   Deep Sea Basin
    3.   Shelf Island
    4.   Continental Shelf
    5.   Mainland Coast.


 
 




    Figure 1.1 Marine and Coastal Environments of Yemen's Red Sea
1.2 Demography

The total population of Yemen was approximately 19.7 million in
2004, of which about 8 million lived in the eight coastal
governorates. The population growth is about 3.02%.

Since the country unification in 1990 Yemen has witnessed many changes in
its economic development situation. Specifically, life expectancy at birth
improved from 46.3 to 59.8, the fertility rate declined from 7.8 live births to
6.5, and under five mortality rates declined by 31%. Despite of this
development, Yemen still facing serious environmental challenges including
those attributed to water scarcity, soil erosion, desertification, overgrazing,
and a high degree of vulnerability to current climatic variability

1.3 Marine and Coastal Environment

Yemen’s        coastal    and    marine     environment     is   both    diverse    and
attractive from its rocky and sandy beaches to the saline mud flats,
mangrove swamps, shrub land, wetlands, coral reefs and seagrass
beds. Such marine ecosystems are known for their high biological
productivity, which provide a wide range of habitat for many aquatic
flora and fauna. The coastal ecosystems of the Red Sea and Gulf of
Aden host a wealth of different biota. Its patch, fringing and bottom
reefs are known to contain at least 300 species of corals which have
thus far been recorded. There is likewise a great diversity of fish,
birds, mollusks, algae, phytoplankton, segrass and sponge (Table
1.1).

  Table (1.1) Biological diversity of the marine resources in Yemen
             Items                         Species
   no.
   1         Fish                          969 spp
   2         Mollusks                      625 species
   3         Crustaceans                   53 species (Lobster 5spp and Shrimps 4spp)
   4         Echinoderm                    168 species (Sea Cucumber 20 spp)
   5         Algae                         485 species
   6         Macro algae                   283 species
   7         Sea grasses                   9 species
   8         Phytoplankton                 283 species
   9         Zooplankton                   139 species
   10        Sea and shore Birds           102 species
   11        Marine turtles,               4 species
   12        Corals reefs                  300 species
   13        Halophytes                    21 species

         Source 4th National Report, July, 2009.
1.3.1 Turtles

Four species of turtles were recorded from the Yemeni waters. These
species are:
     1- Green turtle Chelonia mydas
    2- Hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata
    3- Loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta.
    4- Leatherbacks turtle Dermochelys coriacea.
The Loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta was recorded from Socotra
Archipelago only, and all the marine turtle species are regarded as
endangered animals worldwide by the IUCN. 

The status of marine turtles along the Red Sea cost remains
insufficiently known, only two species have been recorded, the
Hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata and the Green turtle
Chelonia mydas. F. KRUPP et al. (2006), and GASPERETTI et al.
(1993) reported two sight records of green turtles from near al-
Hodeidah and one nesting record from Jabal Aziz Island in the Strait
of Bab al-Mandab. The Leatherbacks turtle Dermochelys coriacea
where seen 20 km south of Jabal At-Tair in October 2007, three days
after Jabal At-Tair eruption.

Sightings of leatherback turtles in Yemen’s waters are rare, but one
person interviewed during a survey in 2002 recalled seeing a
leatherback turtle off Ras Sharma- Jethmun- (down in the southern
Hadramaut coast), and another was spotted in the sea near Bir Ali
(N.Pilcher and Saad, 2006).
1.3.2 Dugongs

There are no confirmed records of dugong Dugong dugon), although
there are suitable habitats and the species is likely to occur in low
population densities (IUCN/PERSGA 1987). According to Preen,
(1989) the distribution of dugong along the Arabian coast of the
southern Red Sea showing relative density. Dark stippling
corresponds with high density, light stippling with low density.
Hatching indicates expected dugong distribution in Yemen and based
on fishermen interviews and coastal morphology (Figure 1.2). He
   ted      the     of
stat that t area o high d              s        d
                              density is expected to extend south as far
            h.
as Luhaiyah But w             e
                    when the fisherm   men interrviewed during a GEF
  oject survey in 1998 they revealed seeing a dugong body (wh
pro                                                              hich is
   own      ly
kno locall as Ataw                      awr
                   wila) in 1979, at Kha Al-Lu  uhayah.




          e          ribution of Dugongs accordin to preen (1989)
     Figure 1.2, Distr                          ng       n
2 The Relevant legislations
The Republic of Yemen has established a number of significant instruments,
laws and regulations which address directly or indirectly marine habitats and
turtles. 

2.1 The Environmental Protection Law (EPL) No 26 of 1995

In 1993, the cabinet of the Yemeni government approved the draft
Environment Protection Law (EPL) and, in 1995, the proposed
legislation was ratified by Parliament as presidential decrees and
laws. The EPL includes regulations for the protection of both the
marine and terrestrial (land) environments and outlines the basic
objectives and roles of concerned authorities in the protection of air,
water, and soil. It is very general in nature, and does not provide
specific compliance for turtles or marine turtle habitat.

2.2 Law No (2) of 2006.
The Low No (2) of 2006, concerning organization of catching,
exploiting and protecting marine creatures

Article (52), It's not permissible for any natural or corporate body to
do the following:

   Paragraph C, To uproot, cut or destroy sea weeds or coral reef of
   different types and species.
   Paragraph D, To catch whales, sea mammals or turtles or to use
   their ovules except those meant for scientific research by
   permission of the Ministry.
   Paragraph J, To exploit sea alga, sponges or any other types or
   species without obtaining a permission from the Ministry.

Article (77), Law No.(42) of 1991 concerning the organization of
fishing and exploitation of marine creatures and their protection and
its modification shall be abolished by a Republican resolution under
Law No.(43) of 1997.
The Republic of Yemen has international and regional environmental
law obligations that are directly related to its national environmental
planning activities and which concern both marine and terrestrial
habitats. A number of international and regional conventions have
afforded some degree of protection especially to marine and coastal
habitats and biodiversity. These conventions include.
      Convention on Biological Diversity (Rio de Janeiro, 1992)
      Regional Convention for the Conservation of the Red Sea and
      the Gulf of Aden (PERSGA) (Jeddah, 1982)
      Framework Convention on Climate Change : FCCC (New
      York,1992) And Kyoto Protocol.
      United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego
      Bay, 1982) [UNCLOS]
      Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
      CITES Convention on International Trade in Endangered
      Species
       (CMS/Bonn) Convention on Conservation of Migratory
      Species of Wild Animals
      Ramsar Convention


3. Turtles Habitat Distribution

The coastal area of Khawr Al-Katib, NE Kamran Island and SE Ras
Isa and to the north east of Al-Wali or Isa vellage, are the most
important areas for turtles (feeding area) along the Yemen's Red Sea
Coast. As this area is also as an important area for shrimps, it is
considered under stress. A number of dead turtles were found on the
beach during the shrimp season. An unusual aggregation area for
Hawksbill turtles was recorded in the area of Hoseisa (proposed
protected area Bir Ali–Burum), which may be a feeding area. The
most important areas of marine turtles in the Red Sea and Gulf of
Aden are shown in the (Table 1.2).
Table (1.2): List of the most important areas of marine turtles in Yemen
      Site                     Interest                            Source
Sharma-Gethmun Turtle breeding ground                   MA&P, 1996 & DouAbul
                                                        Abubakr 1996, MPA & CZM
                                                        Project 2005.
South of Burum    Nesting and feeding area              MPA & CZM Project 2005
 and Hoseisa
 Khor Omaira      Large protected bay, turtle feeding   CEMP, 1985*
                  and breeding, sea grass, shellfish,
                  mariculture potential.
  NE Kamaran      Mangrove, Sponge and sea grass        Field experience
      Island      habitats, feeding area for turtles
Jabal Aziz Island Coral communities, sea grass          GASPERETTI et al. 1993
 Bab Al-Mandab habitats
   North Al-      Mangrove and sea grass habitats,      Walczak. 1977field experience
Hodeidah Khawr feeding area for turtles, Shrimp         (under stress)
    Al-Katib      fishing ground
   Ras Fartak     Rocky communities, sea grass          CEMP 1985*
                  habitats
    Nishtun       Rich fishing grounds, rock and        CEMP 1985*
                  muddy bottoms
      Liban       Unique terrestrial/marine             Ghadaf and Stim 1983;
                  environment, turtles                  Sheppard 1995*
     N-Midi       Seagrass, Mangrove &                  IUCN 1987*
Jabal Zuqar and   Rocky and sandy beach, Coral          From the field experience
 Hanish group     reef community, feeding and
                  nesting area
    N-Habl        Seagrass, Mangrove &                  IUCN 1987*
                  Recreational sandy beach, focal
                  point for wild life of the region.
  Al-Luhayah      Seagrass , Mangrove , Reefs on        IUCN 1987* and field
                  Humar Island (Tiqfash and Al-         experience
                  Murk), nesting area
 Ukban Island     Sandy beach, coral reef, fossil       IUCN 1987*
                  reef, fisheries area / nursery
                  ground.
   Ibn Abbas      Mangrove, Seagrass, nursery /         IUCN 1987*
                  breeding / feeding areas.
    Al-Salif      Mangrove                              IUCN 1987, Rushdi, et al 1994*

    Ras Isa       Coral reef , Sandy beach , Focal      IUCN 1987 ; EH & A 1987,
                  point for coral reef associated       Rushdi, et al 1994* and EIA
                  species .                             RAS Isa refinery phase II 2005
 Al-Manzer to     Silt flats , dunes , sandy beach ,    IUCN 1987
 Ghulayfiqah      palm trees , nursery / feeding /
                  breading areas
      Site                         Interest                                 Source

   Al-Fazzah         Palm sand, reed beds, focal point        IUCN 1987
                     for the wild life of the region.
   Abu-Zahr          Sand beach , palms , seagrass ,          IUCN 1987*
                     coral areas , ideal location for
                     recreational / educational
                     establishment
   Mawshig           Coral reef, Nursery / feeding /          IUCN 1987*
                     breeding ground for reef fish and
                     turtles, Recreational resource.
   Ar Ru’ays         Sandy beach, palms, seagrass,            IUCN 1987*
                     Mangrove, salt ponds or sabkhat.
N-S Al-Mukha         Coral reef & occasional seagrass         IUCN 1987, Rushdi, et al 1994*
                     beds.
Dhobah               Nesting ground                           PERSGA 2010. TS No16
* Abubakr M. M. 2004, Marine Biotic Ecosystem (Resources-Habitats and Species).



4. Distribution and abundance of marine turtles
Turtles were recorded mostly in the shallow areas north of Al
Hudaydah where they nest on islands. Coastal people frequently eat
turtle eggs, but turtle flesh is rarely consumed (Walczak. 1977).
Significant turtle breeding sites occur on islands of the Red Sea coast
of Yemen (Ross and Barwani, 1982). Total population figures are
often unknown because the lack of data, In particular, Ras Sharma
beach is considered as the most important nesting area for the Green
Turtle in the entire Arabian Region, including the Red Sea and Gulf
of Aden.
The coastline in CZM area Sharma- Jethmun (Map 1.2) has been
identified as the second most important nesting site for Green turtles
in the Indian Ocean and is therefore of global significance. Formerly
around 10,000 females are believed to have nested in this area each
year but this is thought to have now dwindled to a fraction of this
number. In total four species of turtles are reported to nest there,
although only two probably nest there regularly. The peak-nesting
season is thought to be between July and September, however turtles
continue to nest throughout the rest of the year.
Turtle nesting is widespread in the CZM area Bir Ali–Burum (The
beach to the south of Burum), but is low– density. (Map 1.3a, b)
show historical and current distribution of marine turtles.

       Map 1.2: Zoning plan for the CZM area Sharma- Jethmun




     Total Area Covered: 568.41km2
     Total / Percentage Land Area: 277.49km2
     Total/ Percentage Marine Area: 291.16km2



       Source, (MPA & CZM Project)

Map 1.3: (a) Distribution of marine turtles in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
Map 1.3: (b) Historical and current distribution of marine turtles in the RS.
Briefly, distribution and abundance of marine turtles in Yemen. (1)

Several workers have studied turtles of the Arabian region including
Hirth & Carr (1970), and Ross & Barwam (1981). Turtles of the Gulf
of Aden coast of Yemen were accounted for few studies, e.g. Watt
(1996). A total of 6 species of sea turtle have been reported to nest
within the CZM Areas. The most common species in the CZM Areas
is the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) followed by the Hawksbill turtle
(Eretmochelys imbricata) (Plate 24d) and Loggerhead turtle (Caretta
caretta). The other species observed include the Olive Ridley turtle
(Lepidochelys olivacea), Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea),
and Flat-backed turtle (Natator depressus). While not all six turtle
species were observed during the 2005 surveys, they have all been
observed in the CZM Areas on more than one occasion, and their
presence was confirmed by several authors (Ross & Barwani 1981,
Frazier 1987, Almansi 1999, Pilcher 2001), although Leatherbacks
and Flat-backed turtles have not been sighted recently.

The peak-nesting season is thought to be between July and
September, however turtles continue to nest throughout the rest of the
year. Counts of nesting pits along Sharma beach, using 10 random 20
m x 20 m quadrats, in November 1995 revealed that pit density
ranged between 53 and 69 pits per 400 m2, with an average of 61 pits
per 400 m2. In December 2003 the number of nesting pits ranged
between 11 and 34 pits per 400 m2 with an average of 25 pits per
400m2. On the Jethmun beach, there were between 25 and 37 pits per
400m2, with an average of 29 pits per 400m2. This indicates that
there may have already been a decline in the number of turtles
nesting on these beaches, but also demonstrates the importance of the
Jethmun coastline as well as the Sharma coastline.




                                                                                                                              
1
    From, Regional Overview, IOSEA, the Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding
5. Nature and magnitude of threats to turtles

Presently the threats to marine turtles and habitats are of a different
magnitude, most coastal and marine habitats in Yemen suffer from
human activities such as butchering turtles and collecting eggs, either
indirectly through degradation of their habitats or directly through
their unwise harvest. However, size of such activity is not well
known.

      Shrimp fishing is causing a lot of turtle deaths right now, it
      happens every year and it’s a chronic problem in Khawr Katib
      Turtles are caught by fishermen throughout the southern Red
      Sea and Gulf of Aden for their meat
      Habitat destruction due to the expansion of the human
      population
      Local recreational use of beaches results in nesting turtles being
      disturbed or killed at Dhobba, Shihr and Sharma- jethmon


6. National conservation priorities for turtles

The national conservation priorities for turtles are:
      Protection of known nesting beaches in CZM areas (Bir Ali-
      Burum, and Sharma- Jethmun, as well as NE Kamaran Island)
      Reducing direct and indirect causes of marine turtle mortality


7. Current turtle-related conservation initiatives

Yemen has established a number of significant instruments, laws and
regulations which address directly or indirectly marine turtles, and
the MPAs and CZM project have been prepared the management
plan for the proposed protected areas (Bir Ali- Burum and Sharma-
Jethmun). Several other areas have high potentials to be protected.
Preliminary studies have already stated at some of these areas, which
include (Kamaran, Al-Luhayyah, Midi, Bab Al- Mandab, Zuqar and
Hanish group),
8. Proposed future research and / or conservation action

   Conduct baseline studies to Identify Marine Turtles habitat and
   nesting areas.
   Promoting Integrated management plan for marine turtles conservation
   Conduct seasonal surveys and monitoring of marine turtles,
   nesting and feeding areas, as well as magnitude of exploitation by
   local communities
   Develop public awareness programs for fishing communities and
   other users of marine resources
References
Turak, E. & Brodie, J. 1999. Coral and reef habitats. In: Ecosystems of the
Red Sea coast of Yemen. DouAbul, A., Rouphael, T.S. & Marchant, R. (eds):
17‑39. Protection of Marine Ecosystems of the Red Sea Coast of Yemen.
Hassell & Assoc., AMSAT and UNOPS.

Republic of Yemen. 1995. “Environmental Protection Law No. (26) of 1995.”
English Translation of original Arabic text.

SAP.2001. Strategic Action Program for the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, Vol. 2
SAP, Country Reports,. Regional Organization for the Conservation of the
Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, 103pp. PERSGA

PERSGA (Regional Organization for the Conservation of the environment of
Red Sea and Gulf of Aden) Vol. 2, 2001 Country Reports, Strategic Action
Programme (SAP).217pp.

Bonfiglioli A. and K.I. Hariri. 2004. Small-scale fisheries, Social Assessment
and Development Prospects. The World Bank.

GASPERETTI, J., STIMSON, A.F. MILLER, J.D., ROSS, J.P.               &   GASPERETTI,
P.R. 1993. Turtles of Arabia. Fauna of Saudi Arabia 13: 170-367.

F. KRUPP, M. APEL, A. HAMOUD, W. SCHNEIDER & U. ZAJONZ 2006.
Zoological survey in the Red Sea coastal zone of Yemen, FAUNA OF ARABIA
21: 11–32

Nicolas Pilcher and Mohammed Saad, 2006, Status of leatherback turtles in
Yemen. Indian Ocean – South-East Asian Leatherback Turtle Assessment
IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU

PREEN, A. 1989. Dugongs. Volume 1. The Status and Conservation of
Dugongs in the Arabian Region. (200 pp.) Volume 2. Recommendations for
the Conservation and Management of Dugong in the Arabian Region. MEPA
Coastal and Marine Management Series, Report No. 10. MEPA, Jeddah.

Walczak, P.S., 1977, The status of marine turtles in the waters of the Yemen
Arab Republic, British Journal of Herpetology 5, pp. 851-853. Walker, D.I.
and Ormond, R.F.G. 1982, Coral death from sewage and phosphate pollution
at Aqaba, Red Sea, Marine Pollution Bulletin 13, pp. 21-25.

Ross, J.P. and Barwani, M.A., 1982, Review of sea turtles in the Arabian area',
Biology and Conservation of Sea Turtles, ed. K. Bjorndal, Smithsonian Institution
Press, USA, pp 373-383.

				
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Description: REGIONAL MEETINGS FOR THE CONSERVATION OF THE DUGONG AND MARINE TURTLES IN THE NORTH WEST INDIAN OCEAN (NWIO)