The association for the protection of sea turtles in Morocco (ATOMM) strives for the conservation of the environment in general and the sea turtles in particular. Its activities include creating a cooperative atmosphere with fishermen for a better management of living sea resources.
Take it for a fact. The nesting sites of sea turtles in Morocco have disappeared. The association for the protection of sea turtles in Morocco (ATOMM) was founded in 2008 in order to study the causes of this decline and find appropriate solutions and measures to stop the phenomenon. For many years now, ATOMM works on two priority axes: data collection and sensitization.
Study to understand
ATOMM, whose several members are scientists and whose headquarters is in the Faculty of sciences in Tetuan, strived since its creation to create a database of sea turtles. Data collection is a must to estimate the importance of the threats on these sea reptiles. The visits to markets and beach and ports’ surveys are regular activities undertaken by ATOMM to fill in its database.
Sensitize to involve
To complement its approach, ATOMM regularly organizes awareness-raising activities. Fishermen are the first to be approached. Through its workshops, ATOMM explains and involves people. Fishing vessels whose teams have benefited from this type of training have the necessary equipment to collect data on turtles caught in their nets before releasing them (rings, cameras, cards, measuring tapes, refill cards, etc.).
The involved boat captains provide data to ATOMM and thus become valuable partners for the conservation of sea turtles. ATOMM also raises awareness among the general public by participating in projects such as the Science Caravan, but also by sharing information on the species existing in Morocco and which behavior to adopt in case of stranding.
ATOMM is a link in the international chain of NGOs and scientific organizations involved in this field. Thanks to the effective participation of all the countries concerned by the decline of sea turtles populations, it is still possible to hope for a reversal. Thank goodness.
In the 1950s, information on a large number of sea turtle egg laying sites in southern Morocco was reported, but recent surveys of the Atlantic coastline seem to suggest unfortunately a dramatic decline and disappearance of nesting on these coasts. Carcasses and shells of turtles caught accidentally in nets or stranded are found on the beaches.
Surveys undertaken among fishermen have reported that they regularly see marine turtles in the sea and frequently catch them in their fishing nets.
The rise of deep, nutrient-rich waters along the Atlantic coast of Morocco means that this area is one of the richest in fishery resources in the world and is home to a very active fishing industry. Data on the decline of Loggerhead sea turtles egg laying in the southeastern United States indicate a decrease of about 50% in the last 10 years.
The National Institute for Fisheries Research (INRH) has set up a specific scientific program to follow up stranding since the 1990s. This institution, headquartered in Casablanca until 1995, currently has six research centers covering the Moroccan coast (Atlantic and Mediterranean).
Moreover and in order to succeed in this program, the INRH developed competences in this field at the level of each of its Regional Centers. The INRH has traditionally been approached by local authorities and law enforcement agencies to provide scientific support in the management of stranding.
This involves identifying the species, the biometric parameters, and possible causes of stranding, taking photos, consulting with other stakeholders on measures to take for carcass disposal, and more recently performing necropsies and taking off tissue samples.
Source: National Institute for Fisheries Research
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