By ERWIN MASCARIÑAS
THE sightings of hawksbill sea turtles and reports of egg nestings in eastern Misamis Oriental is a sign of a rich ecosystem of the Gingoog Bay area, Oceana Philippines said in a statement released in time for the World Sea Turtle Day over the weekend.
“The continuous presence of sea turtles in Gingoog Bay is an indication of a rich ecosystem that merits these sea creatures to keep on coming back. Keeping our coasts safe from reclamation or dump and fill projects ensures higher survival of many marine lives like the sea turtles that lay eggs in the same location where they were hatched,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana vice president.
Oceana is an international non-government organization that focuses on marine conservation advocacy.
Ramos said prohibiting large commercial fishing vessels within the municipal waters as so mandated by the Fisheries Code would be a compelling measure to prevent boat strikes resulting in injuries from propellers and incidental bycatch of turtles.
The Oceana Philippines statement came after fisherfolk documented the laying of eggs of the giant hawksbill sea turtles between the last week of May and the first week of June, this year, in Medina and Magsaysay towns.
Barangay Candiis councilor Rolando Pagara said villagers were able to rescue a giant hawksbill sea turtle and documented a nesting of egg along the beach in May 28.
The turtle had a carapace length of about 65 cm, width of 63 cm, and weighed 48 kilograms.
Pagara said the turtle was hit by a motorboat in the waters off Barangay Damayuhan in Maysaysay town.
Pagara said villagers treated the turtle before tagging and guiding it back to the open waters.
In June 3, a hawksbill sea turtle laid eggs along the beach of Duka Bay resort. A technical team of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Coastal Management Unit moved 165 eggs to a different site because the place was flood-prone.
Pagara said another hawksbill sea turtle laid eggs under the house of a Bantay Dagat volunteer, Fortivilar Salipdan, in Barangay Candiis early this month.
“We noticed that a part of the right hind flipper of the turtle was cut off but has completely healed. Maybe this was after it was attacked by a large predator,” Pagara said.
He said the turtle was tagged and subsequently guided to the sea.
Pagara said there were many sightings of hawksbill sea turtles, whale sharks and whales in the Gingoog Bay since 2018.
A study by marine biologist Fra-And Timothy Quimpo in 2013, Gingoog Bay’s coral reefs and seagrass are foraging areas for hawksbill and green sea turtles, two of five species of sea turtles found in the country.
Oceana Philippines commended the conservation efforts of the local communities.
The environment department stated that the area is a critical habitat for hawksbill turtles pursuant to Sections 4 and 25 of RA 9147.
This law mandates the DENR to establish and manage critical habitats in areas within its jurisdiction but outside protected areas declared under RA 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Area System (Nipas) Act of 1992.
In 2012, the DENR designated 612 hectares in the town of Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental, as a critical habitat for hawksbill sea turtles.
The designation of the “Magsaysay Critical Habitat for Hawksbill Turtles” is embodied in DENR Administrative Order 2016-02, establishing the coastal barangays of Candiis, San Isidro and Damayohan as wildlife critical habitats.