The Environmental Science Center (ESC) at Qatar University (QU) has started the annual season to monitor the nesting of rare and endangered sea turtles for the 2021 season on the country's coasts and islands of the country.
The initiative is in co-operation with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment and funded by Qatar Petroleum, within the framework of the marine turtle protection project launched 19 years ago.
The sea turtle nesting season usually begins on April 1, when turtles begin to lay their eggs on the northern shores of Qatar, which is estimated between 75 to 100 eggs per nest.
Sea turtles are a component of the rich ecosystem of the country, and are an important partner in the ecological balance that harmonises the requirements of urban and industrial development and the protection and maintenance of the environment, in addition to supporting biodiversity in the marine and coastal environments.
Once a turtle lays eggs on a coastal beach, a team from QU-ESC collects and transfers them either to Fuwairit or Ras Laffan reserves. The eggs are left in their natural nests on Qatari islands such as Umm Tais Island, Ras Rakan Island, Shrao's Island and Halul Island, where the number of visitors is less compared to the coastal beaches.
QU-ESC has over the past 19 years carried out many studies, related to turtles and their nesting areas, in the form of annual reports or scientific research published in international scientific journal. A recent study related to hawksbill turtles and the effect of climate change, especially the rise in temperatures on the processes of hatching and gender since the high temperature of the nests leads, for example, to an increase in the number of males and a decrease in the number of females.
Another study, which tracked turtles in the territorial waters of Qatar and the Gulf, involved placing tracking devices to know their areas of concentration and feeding until they return again in other seasons to the Qatari beaches.
QU-ESC director Dr Hamad al-Saad al-Kuwari said that the data and the experience of scientific and technical researchers acquired over the past two decades, have contributed immensely in enriching the knowledge about the dangers that turtles face in the Gulf and the world.
The in-depth study of marine turtles provide a better understanding on the importance of management, protection and periodic control measures required to reach the levels that preserve their viability and about the improvements in the health of the ecosystem that could contribute to the restoration of their populations.
Dr al-Kuwari pointed out that the information currently available indicates that sea turtles play an important role in the marine ecosystem. For example, green turtles contribute to ecological balance through their exploitation of seaweeds as food, and hawksbill turtles support coral reefs by feeding on some invertebrate organisms.
This helps to achieve a balance between food networks or chains and facilitate the natural nutrient cycle in the marine environment. Even the shells of turtle eggs after the hatching season is one of the most important natural nutrients for the soil, he underlined.
The official indicated that turtles have an important role in providing suitable housing for the diverse marine organisms in the seagrass and coral reef environment. In-depth and continuous studies will reveal many of the roles of turtles in protecting the environment and maintaining the ecological balance, Dr al-Kuwari added.