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Keep tourists off Fuwairit beach to protect turtles: Environmentalists

Keep tourists off Fuwairit beach to protect turtles: Environmentalists


Santhosh Chandran
Doha
Qatar-based environmentalists have called for declaring the two-kilometre-long stretch along the Fuwairit beach as a"permanent turtle nesting and hatching area" and sought measures to keep the tourists off the site to protect sea turtles.
The environmentalists, including some Qatar University students, have submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) in this regard, sources told Qatar Tribune.
The move aims at protecting the nesting and hatching sites of turtles on northern beaches from the threat posed by visitors.
A researcher, whose study focuses on marine turtles of Qatar, said,"Fuwairit beach is the most-preferred nesting and hatching site of turtles. Though the site is fenced to allow turtles to hatch eggs for three months from April, the increasing number of tourists to the area pose a threat."
"Small sand dunes, which were once common at Fuwairit, have almost been destroyed by tourists' vehicles. Therefore, it is imperative for us to take measures to protect turtle hatching sites and the area," he stressed.
A study initiated in 2002 by the authorities in association with QU and Qatar Petroleum, identified four north eastern beaches ” Fuwairit, Al Ghariya, Ras Laffan and Al Maroona ” and four islands ” Halul, Sherawoo, Ras Rakkan and Umtais ” as turtle nesting sites.
"A recent study has revealed that the number of turtles arriving for nesting and hatching in these areas has declined during the weekends (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) owing to the presence of a large number of visitors," explained a QU researcher.
"As a permanent solution to the problem, we propose that the area be declared a 'marine turtle zone'. In the meantime, we are planning a collective effort in association with government agencies, environmentalists and private firms to protect the sites throughout the year," the researcher added.
As part of a campaign to conserve turtles, QU had identified Fuwairit and the nearby four small islands as the nesting sites. Also, according to the MME website, Fuwairit beach and Ras Laffan constitute 30 percent of the total nests of sea turtles in the area.
Marine turtles play an important role in the ecosystem by maintaining healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs reefs that provide nurseries for about a quarter of the ocean's fish species.
"The data on the Google map showing the gradual disappearance of greenery along the costal belt of the northern area because of human interference is another alarming indication that the beach site must be protected throughout the year," said another researcher.

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