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Lifeline for Asian and African Sea Turtles First meeting of new multilateral environment agreement

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Bangkok--Jan 22--UNEP
Marine   turtles in South East Asia and the Indian   Ocean   stand to benefit from a new international agreement designed to ensure their long-term survival.

In   Bangkok   today,   the   first   meeting   of   the   Signatory   States to the Memorandum   of   Understanding   on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles   and   their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia began, attended by representatives and observers from 20 countries from around the region.

Six   species   of marine turtles found in the region's waters are threatened by   accidental   capture   in   industrial   fishing   operations,   as   well   as unsustainable   harvesting   at   nesting   sites   and   in   near-shore   waters. Destruction   of   nesting   beaches from inappropriate coastal development is also a major threat. The need to better coordinate conservation efforts has led   governments   to   sign   up to the new environmental agreement developed under   the   auspices   of   the   Convention   on   Migratory   Species   ?   an international   treaty   linked   to   the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNEP   Executive   Director   Klaus Toepfer described the meeting as historic. "Countries   of   the region are now committed to work together to ensure the future   of   one   of   the   most   charismatic   inhabitants   of   our   marine environment."

The   memorandum   puts   in   place   a   Conservation   and Management Plan that focuses   on   reducing   threats,   conserving   critical   habitat,   exchanging scientific   data,   increasing public awareness and participation, promoting regional cooperation and seeking resources for implementation.

The   agreement   is   designed   to   reverse   the   decline   in   populations of loggerhead,   olive   ridley,   green,   hawksbill,   leatherback   and   flatback turtles   and   the   management   plan contains 24 programmes and 105 specific activities.

UNEP   provided   an   initial   start-up   grant for the secretariat of the new agreement,   which   will   be based in Bangkok, alongside its Regional Office for   Asia   and   the Pacific and East Asian Seas Regional Coordinating Unit, with   major   financial   support   from the United States, Australia, France, United Kingdom and its parent Convention on Migratory Species.

During   the   meeting's   inauguration,   UNEP   announced   the   appointment of Douglas   Hykle, the current Deputy Executive Secretary of the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS), to the post of Coordinator/Senior CMS Advisor.

Mr   Hykle facilitated the negotiation of the memorandum over the past three years, and has more than 15 years experience with CMS and the Convention on Trade   in   Endangered Species (CITES). He take up his position in March and will   be   supported   by   a   new Advisory Committee to be established at the meeting, which continues until Friday.

On   his   new appointment, Mr. Hykle said, "Implementation of this agreement should   mark   a   turning   point   in   the   conservation   of Indian Ocean and South-East   Asian   marine turtles.   At the same time, the important work of Convention   on   Migratory   Species   will   benefit   from   having   a regional presence,   which the Bangkok office will bring."   He went on to note that a parallel   agreement,   also   developed   under   CMS,   is already in place for marine turtles of the Atlantic coast of Africa.

Klaus   Toepfer   encouraged other countries to sign up to the Indian Ocean ? South-East Asian agreement as soon as possible.

Mr   Toepfer   said,   "here   we   have   a practical example of the synergy and inter-linkages that are needed in the international environmental arena. We hope   it   will   be   a   model   for   many   other   multilateral   environmental agreements, large and small, in pooling resources and gaining critical mass by working daily in close cooperation with different organizations."

His   comments   come   just   a fortnight before UNEP's 22nd Governing Council meeting   and   Global   Ministerial   Environment Forum in Nairobi, which will deal   with   an   ambitious   agenda   of issues drawn from the outcomes of the World   Summit   on   Sustainable Development, and 60 days before the UNEP-led World   Water   Day   on   March   22,   which   will   focus attention on the many responses to water management issues being made around the globe.

Madagascar   and   the   Seychelles   added   their   names as signatories to the marine turtle agreement at the start of today's meeting, joining Australia, Cambodia,   Comores,   Islamic   Republic   of Iran, Kenya, Mauritius, Myanmar, Philippines,   Sri   Lanka,   United   Republic   of   Tanzania,   Vietnam, United Kingdom and the United States of America.

India,   Indonesia, Maldives and Thailand advised that their Governments had initiated processes to sign the memorandum in the near future.

The   other   Range States for the Memorandum ? whose turtle populations face similar   threats   --   are   Bahrain,   Bangladesh,   Brunei Darussalam, Egypt, Eritrea,   France,   India,   Jordan,   Kuwait,   Malaysia,   Mozambique,   Oman, Pakistan,   Qatar,   Saudi   Arabia,   Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

For more information contact:

In   Bangkok, Tim Higham, Regional Information Officer, UNEP, Bangkok, phone +66   2   288   2127,   email higham@un.org; or Douglas Hykle, Deputy Executive Secretary,   UNEP/CMS Secretariat, phone +66 2 288 1387 (Bangkok) or +49 228 815 2401 / 2407 (Bonn), email dhykle@cms.unep.de, Web www.wcmc.org.uk/cms

More   information   about the agenda for the UNEP Governing Council meeting/ Global Ministerial Environment Forum is available from www.unep.org/GoverningBodies/GC22/
More   information   about   World   Water   Day   2003   is   available   form www.waterday2003.org   End.
-TM-

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