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  Gulf News 23 Sep 06
Oman: Turtles tagged on Masirah Island

Migratory turtles, nesting on the eastern part of the country, are a major tourism attraction in Oman.

As the government tries to make tourism another source of national income, the environmental authorities here are leaving no stone unturned in trying to protect the Loggerhead and Green turtles that come to Oman's beaches.

Now, the Nature Conservation Department at the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources (MRMEWR) has started tracking Loggerhead turtles with the help of satellite tagging.

Loggerhead turtles nesting in Masirah Island have had satellite transmitter tags attached to them as part of the Masirah Turtle Conservation project, an initiative aimed at studying the migratory habits of these endangered species.

"Out of the first 20 turtles tagged, four are not traceable," Ali Amer Al Kiyumi, Director-General of Nature Conservation, told Gulf News.

He explained that the satellite transmitter tags are attached to track the post-nesting migratory routes of these turtles. On the missing satellite signal from four Loggerhead turtles in the Indian Ocean, Al Kiyumi touched on every possibility.

"The transmitter tags might have either stopped functioning, fallen off or the turtles might have been caught by fishermen," he said.

Al Kiyumi said tracking sea turtles using satellite transmitters attached to the turtle's carapace helped in collecting data about their lives, habits and movement in the Indian Ocean.

He said that the turtles cover 30km to 50km per day on average. "The tags transmit data about the turtle's location to an orbiting satellite. Each satellite transmitter tag costs $1,600," he added.

"Marine researchers have been using the satellite telemetry to track turtle migrations. Every day, the data is collected, analysed and the turtle's locations are made public through the website www.seaturtle.org," the country's top nature conservationist said.

Masirah Island hosts one of the largest nesting populations of Loggerhead turtles in the world. Around 30,000 female Loggerhead turtles visit the island's beaches during the nesting season between May and September every year.

According to ecologists, marine turtles in the north-western waters of the Indian Ocean are in dire need of conservation.

The turtle conservation project in Oman is being implemented in collaboration with the Environment Society of Oman, the Marine Research Foundation, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

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