Senegalese fishermen who once profited from poaching, are now protecting highly-endangered sea turtles in the Marine Protected Area (MPA) of Joal-Fadiouth, a 57-square-mile area that serves as a safe place for vulnerable marine species.
Sea turtles routinely migrate to this stretch of the Atlantic Ocean along the West African coast, and turtle meat has long been considered a culinary delicacy in the area. In an effort to stop people from killing these beautiful creatures, the former poachers spend time educating people about the turtles’ crucial role in the marine ecosystem through a series of public awareness and activism campaigns. They also patrol the protected area, where they help turtles caught in fishing nets by disentangling and releasing them back into the ocean.
“We went from being poachers, the biggest turtle eaters, to being the biggest turtle protectors,” Abdou Karim Sall, who manages the protected zone, said. “Not all fishermen have turned away from turtles, and when the fishing is not good, some even hunt them.”
The Senegalese government, local authorities, and various organizations are working together to provide economic incentives to those who transition from poaching to protecting in communities that are historically dependent on fishing industry revenue for survival.
Thank you to the dedicated workers, who repurposed their seafaring skills to help save sea turtles from the brink of extinction.