Sea turtles’ presence is crucial to the balance of Mayotte marine ecosystems
The presence of turtles is valuable for the environment to which it contributes to good balance according to Katia Ballorain responsible for marine megafauna mission within Mayotte Marine Park.
“Baby turtles are part of the food chain of Mayotte waters and are important prey for numbers of fish and seabirds. By feeding on seagrass, green turtles stimulate their growth. These grass beds retain sediment that comes from the earth and thus avoid siltation and destruction of adjacent reef and allows the survival of all plant and animal species associated with coral reef.”
If sea turtles are crucial for Mayotte environment, they also represented a priceless natural capital for ecotourism activities development attracting numbers of divers, snorkelers and other travelers looking for animal encounters.
Poaching of marine turtles is a real threat just like the decline of dugongs caused by overfishing
Unfortunately, poaching of Mayotte emblematic species of sea turtles rife throughout the department. According to mayotte network of marine mammals and sea turtles stranding (REMMAT), almost 300 turtles were poached in 2015, at least 10% of the total number of sea turtles on the island each year. A scourge that is reminiscent of the gradual disappearance of dugong overfished throughout the department.
To fight against poaching, marine park and nature brigade, the county council, the customs field coordinate their monitoring actions. For 16 years, the law prohibits the capture, mutilation and deliberate disturbance of green and hawksbill turtles but also the destruction and degradation of their habitats or the removal of their eggs. The penalties amount to one year imprisonment and 15,000 euros in fines (article L415-3 du code de l’environnement).