Back in the years before COVID-19 pandemic, there was a campaign dubbed “Save the Turtles” launched by environmentalists and marine life enthusiasts because of the growing number of wastes in the oceans.
Because of this problem, some environmental groups are urging the public to become a friend of sea turtles.
In Ilocos Norte, residents of the coastal towns of Bangui and Pagudpud guard and protect the nests of endangered sea turtles or pawikans that lay their eggs along the shorelines.
Even local fishermen are trained to record and report to their barangays the turtles that are stranded and release them back to the sea.
Because of the consistent and ongoing turtle conservation awareness and training programs on environmental protection and biodiversity, coastal communities in Ilocos Norte are becoming a safe sanctuary of marine turtles.
Residents now emerge as advocates for the conservation and protection of endangered species, especially on pawikans.
These training programs are initiated and spearheaded by NorthWind and North Luzon Renewables in Bangui and Pagudpud towns which began in 2013 and formalized in 2017. They go down the grassroots to educate the communities about the benefits of pawikan conservation for their own livelihood and societal progress.
Since then, they have monitored 24 nesting sites, released over 1,000 hatchlings, and rescued and released 30 sea turtles.
“Back in 2005, we would only see one, two, three- and maybe up to five pawikans around here. The number of pawikans laying their eggs in Bangui Bay have increased. We have been able to rescue hundreds of eggs with a hatching rate of eighty percent,” said Raymond Sesuca, Stakeholder Engagement Manager at NorthWind and North Luzon Renewables.
Although there has been prior knowledge for the residents of the richness of their environment and the inherent value that sea turtles contribute to their local heritage, officials of the Ayala Group-led wind farms believe that residents have fully realized that sustainable practices contribute to protecting the marine biodiversity that surrounds them.
“Dati yung ilang mga mangingisda dito ay pag nakahuli ng pawikan gamit ang lambat nila ay kinakatay at binebenta ng palihim, pero mula noong naumpisahan ang programa para sa pagsagip sa mga pawikan ay mismong mga mangingisda na ang nagre-report sa amin sa barangay pag may nahuli silang pawikan. Ang mga ka-barangay namin ay aktibo na rin sa pakikilahok pag may mga pinapakawalang mga nalambat na pawikan o mga nagpisa ng mga baby pawikan,” said Punong Barangay Lovella Garvida of Caparispisan, Pagudpud. (JCR/JNPD/MJTAB,PIA Ilocos Norte)