Ivory Coast Names Turtle Nesting Ground as Marine Protected Area

Ivory Coast created its first-ever marine protected area off the coast of the tiny western town of Grand-Bereby, an area that includes mangroves and reefs and is considered a globally important nesting ground for sea turtles.

The decision is a key step toward the protection of more than 20 species of sharks and rays, including hammerhead sharks and manta rays, as well as leatherback and olive ridley turtles, theUniversity of Exeter, one of the organizations that supported the designation, said in a statement Monday. The marine protected area comprises 1,000 square miles.

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“Levels of marine protection in West Africa are generally low, so the Ivorian government’s creation of a marine protected area is a big statement that will hopefully act as a regional exemplar,” Kristian Metcalfe, a lecturer at the university’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation, said in the statement.

The West African nation said in September it’s planning to designate a total of five marine areas as protected. Together with conservationists, the government has been examining other zones nearby such as Sassandra, Fresco and the Bandama estuary.

All areas suffer from strong pressure on remaining mangroves, the destruction of primeval forests in the immediate vicinity or their transformation into palm-oil plantations and overfishing by huge trawlers, the Bremen-based Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung for Nature Conservation and Environmental Protection said on its website.

The newly created marine protected area in Grand-Bereby will include “a zone closed to all activities, and an eco-development zone that will support sustainable fishing practices and eco-tourism activities,” Ivory Coast Environment Minister Joseph Seka said in the statement. A legal process is required for the rule to take effect.

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