The Memorandum of Understanding
(MoU) was concluded under Convention on Migratory
Species (CMS) auspices and became effective on 1 July
1999. It will remain open for signature indefinitely.
It aims at safeguarding six marine turtle species
that are estimated to have rapidly declined in numbers
during recent years due to excessive exploitation
(both direct and incidental) and the degradation of
Marine turtles are thought to be
numerous along much of the Atlantic Coast of Africa.
The area includes nesting sites, feeding areas and
migration corridors of importance for six species
including the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta),
the Atlantic Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii),
the Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea),
the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), the Hawksbill
Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the Leatherback
Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).
The MoU covers coastal areas extending
some 14,000 km from Morocco to South Africa including
Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo, Côte
d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial
Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau,
Liberia, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Portugal
(Azores, Madeira), Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal,
Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain (Canary Islands),
Togo and United Kingdom (Ascension Island, St. Helena).
An up-to-date list of the MoU’s Signatories
is found in its Agreement Summary Sheet.
The Conservation Plan
In May 2002, Range States gathered
in Nairobi to conclude a comprehensive Conservation
Plan. The bulk of the Conservation Plan focuses on
the establishment of a database on turtle ecology
(distribution, migration patterns, etc) and on threats
(nature and extent of direct exploitation, bycatch
rate, impact of coastal management, pollution, etc).
The project aims to create a monitoring and protection
network for nesting and feeding sites in close collaboration
with local communities, fishermen, travel operators
and coastal developers.
The “Nairobi Declaration",
adopted at the conclusion of the May 2002 meeting,
drew attention to the problem of marine turtle by-catch
in industrial fishing operations and emphasized the
importance of involving local communities in the development
and implementation of conservation activities.
It also encouraged links with other conventions, intergovernmental
bodies and NGOs, and sought the integration of marine
turtle conservation measures within the emerging African
Process for the Development and Protection of the
Marine and Coastal Environment in Sub-Saharan Africa.
CMS has supported a number of small-scale
project activities in various countries, with a view
to stimulating broader initiatives. Recognizing a
need of centralized information on West-African turtles,
CMS funded the most comprehensive review to date on
the status of marine turtles of the Atlantic Coast.
This document synthesized the knowledge currently
available on the marine turtles of West Africa, highlighting
some well-established facts, some uncertainties, and
conservation measures or applied research that would
be advisable to undertake. It is meant to serve as
a reference tool for further studies.
CMS has also supported the development
of basic training and awareness materials. CMS has
funded the production of French language marine turtle
identification posters developed by WIDECAST, an NGO
working on turtle conservation in the Caribbean. The
posters have been distributed widely to countries
along the Atlantic Coast of Africa. CMS has also contributed
funding towards the production of a long-awaited marine
turtle research and management techniques manual.
On the more practical level of marine
turtle conservation efforts, CMS has funded a project,
which started in 2001 and was successfully concluded
in 2003, aimed at uncovering the migratory patterns
of the Green Turtle population nesting at Poilão,
In 2005, CMS and the Senegalese Ministry
of the Environment signed a Memorandum of Cooperation.
An office was established in Senegal in conjunction
with the environmental programme of the New Partnership
for Africa’s Development (SINEPAD). SINEPAD,
working on behalf of the CMS Secretariat, will act
as the MoU’s coordinator. It is tasked with
implementing diverse conservation and sustainable
use activities related to the MoU.