The Banc d’Arguin National Park (PNBA) on the Mauritanian coast is a jewel in West Africa’s conservation crown. The park comprises sand dunes, mudflats, sand banks, seagrass meadows, small islands and shallow coastal waters. It has an abundance of life, sheltering over two million wintering shorebirds (Lourenço et al. 2016). It is also home for several shark and ray species, dolphins and sea turtles. It has potentially the largest aggregation of immature green turtles in Africa, but key aspects, such as the origin of these turtles, are unknown.
In 2018 seven green turtles were tracked from the main African rookery at Poilão Island, Bijagós, to the PNBA. In March 2019 we conducted a field mission to visit the foraging sites used by these turtles in Mauritanian coastal waters. With the participation of the PNBA, IMROP – Mauritania, IBAP – Guinea-Bissau, ISPA – Portugal, the University of Exeter and local fishers we conducted in-water surveys of marine turtles.
This mission to the PNBA and previous studies conducted at the Bijagós Archipelago, Guinea-Bissau (Catry et al. 2009, Godley et al 2010), highlighted that both sites are fundamental elements of the range of the largest green turtle population in West Africa. Given the migratory nature of this species, it is important that threats, especially direct and incidental catch in both artisanal and industrialised fisheries, are assessed throughout the region.
Catry, P., Barbosa, C., Paris, B., Indjai, B., Almeida, A., Limoges, B., Silva, C. and Pereira, H., 2009. Status, ecology, and conservation of sea turtles in Guinea-Bissau. Chelonian Conservation and Biology, 8(2), pp.150-160.
Godley, B.J., Barbosa, C., Bruford, M., Broderick, A.C., Catry, P., Coyne, M.S., Formia, A., Hays, G.C. and Witt, M.J., 2010. Unravelling migratory connectivity in marine turtles using multiple methods. Journal of Applied Ecology, 47(4), pp.769-778.
Lourenço, P.M., Catry, T., Piersma, T. and Granadeiro, J.P., 2016. Comparative feeding ecology of shorebirds wintering at Banc d’Arguin, Mauritania. Estuaries and coasts, 39(3), pp.855-865.