March 06, 2013
By Mohammed Zaatari

SIDON, Lebanon: A giant sea turtle was found dead on the shores of Sidon Tuesday, with experts blaming harmful and illegal fishing practices as the root cause.

Ecological experts estimated the age of the dead reptile exceeded 25 years and noted that the cause of death was related to illegal fishing practices offshore, like blast fishing, which uses explosives to kill numerous fish at once, facilitating their collection later.

The experts said that turtles were also adversely affected by pollution, as some were found dead after eating nylon bags that they mistook for jelly fish, which had been swept to sea from Sidon’s dump after storms.

“Crimes are committed in the marine ecosystem every day because security measures are absent and so is offshore supervision,” said Youssef Jundi, head of environmental development at the Lebanese Association of Professional Divers.

He said some fishermen were using unregulated and immoral fishing practices like blast fishing, which harms the diverse marine ecosystem.

“The death of this sea turtle on Sidon’s shore is a real tragedy and we could have avoided it if the security forces fulfilled their duties and launched patrols to prevent and pursue the criminals who destroy our ecosystem,” he added.

He said the fishing offenses were being committed in the presence of security forces, but added that no action had been taken against the perpetrators.

Experts also noted that finding the one dead sea turtle was not an isolated incident, saying many such turtles had turned up on Sidon’s shore in the past few years.

In efforts to spread awareness about marine life and the importance of preserving marine diversity, several schools are organizing field trips for students to visit the shore and witness the ecological challenges there first hand.

The environmental club in Sidon’s Iman high school, for instance, organized a trip to the shore to take a look at the conditions for wildlife on the shore.

The young members of the club met with several divers in the city who explained in detail the dangers that illegal fishing posed to marine life alomg Sidon’s shore and the importance of protecting the endangered marine species for the sake of the ecosystem.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 06, 2013, on page 4.

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