"The first sea turtle is finally born after long-awaited days!" This is a sincere share from Mr. Nguyen Ton Xuan Sang, a member of the coral and sea turtle protection team of Nhon Hai commune, Quy Nhon city, Binh Dinh province, witnessed the first sea turtles out of 384 eggs released on August 17, 2021, and was protected, relocated, hatched, and returned to the sea safely by the Nhon Hai commune community on August 17, 2021.
The population of Nhon Hai commune, in particular, and the coastal community of Binh Dinh province in general, have become much more aware of the protection of aquatic resources, particularly the conservation of sea turtles, in recent years. When fishermen find sea turtles caught in nets or stranded, they contact local authorities and the Binh Dinh Fisheries Sub-Department to get the turtles handed over or released back into the sea. According to a survey conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), turtle spawning sites were found in a number of coastal and island communes in Binh Dinh in 2010, including two places in Nhon Hai commune: Hai Giang and Hon Kho beach. However, a third new hatching habitat for sea turtles has just emerged: the beach in front of Hai Dong village. The mother sea turtles have returned to their spawning grounds in Binh Dinh province.
As of August 2021, there have been four turtle turns on the spawning ground, with 384 eggs being preserved and transported to a secure location by the community organization preserving aquatic resources in Nhon Hai commune. The first turtle to be laid was a sea turtle of the species Green Tortoise (Chelonia mydas, classified as "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora - CITES), weighing about 80 kg and measuring 98 cm long, discovered by the Working Group of Nhon Hai Commune at 21:00 on June 29, 2021, while checking the situation of COVID-19 prevention and control in the commune.
The community organization to conserve Nhon Hai aquatic resources relocated the first nest of turtle eggs to a secure location with the help of the Sub-Department of Fisheries and local authorities (because the nest was located in a place close to the water's edge, prone to flooding). To conserve sea turtles, the Nhon Hai Commune People's Committee also broadcasts publicly to fisherman not to dig up and destroy sea turtle eggs, not to assemble on the beach during turtle spawning season, and to place signs announcing sea turtle breeding sites.
Fishermen, after protecting and transporting the first nest of eggs and the next turns of sea turtles to the spawning grounds, immediately notify local authorities to monitor and protect sea turtles when they are located. The community group for the protection of fishing resources in Nhon Hai commune has worked with the border control station to estimate the size of the turtles, return the mother turtles to the sea safely after laying their eggs, and transport the turtle eggs to the gathering area. On sometimes, work is completed until one or two o'clock in the morning.
Thanks to the community group's enthusiasm and ingenuity in protecting aquatic resources in Nhon Hai commune, as well as the dedicated assistance of specialists, the first egg nest has successfully hatched with a rate of 54 percent thus far. Although this nest was moved late after delivery, approximately 12 hours after the turtle laid, the results were better than expected.
According to the report of the Binh Dinh Fisheries Sub-Department, from 2008 to 2016, 9 eggs hatched in Binh Dinh, resulting in the safe release of 300 baby turtles into the sea. Fishermen were actively notified and participated in the effort to release and rescue 17 trapped and injured turtles, and return them to the sea. From 2016 to the present, fishermen have actively informed, participated in, and rescued 11 sea turtles trapped in nets or sold for release back into the sea, as well as protecting 6 sea turtle nests, with 283 baby turtles safely returned to the sea (including 4 nests of turtle eggs in Nhon Hai in 2021). Many people used to dig a nest of turtle eggs to bring back to eat or consume, according to some residents of Nhon Hai commune, but since 2008, the activities of killing sea turtles and exploiting turtle eggs have completely stopped due to numerous communication activities, awareness raising, and the establishment of a community organization in Nhon Hai to protect sea turtles and corals.
The phenomena of sea turtles returning to Nhon Hai commune's beach and laying eggs has shown positive signs in the community's and local authorities' conservation of aquatic resources. Binh Dinh is one of the leading localities in the country in terms of establishing community organizations that participate in the conservation of aquatic resources through co-management (as required by the Fisheries Law 2017). These community organizations, as well as management agencies and professional agencies, are progressively pushing their role in community propaganda and awareness raising concerning the protection of aquatic resources by participating in activities.
The successful birth and hatching of turtle eggs by mother turtles has demonstrated that the community has become more aware of nature conservation in general, and sea turtle conservation in particular, and together we have prompted hope that other beaches in Binh Dinh, and Vietnam in general, will continue to welcome mother turtles to lay eggs.
Le Mai (theo tongcucthuysan.gov.vn)