New no fishing zone created to protect the world’s rarest turtle

Large area of no fishing zone protects the area where the turtle is most often seen. Photo by: Nguyen Tai Thang - ATP

From the 3rd to the 9th of February 2015, two no fishing zones were created in Dong Mo lake, Son Tay district, Hanoi, Vietnam. The zones which have been constructed by the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Indo Myanmar Conservation (IMC) help protect important areas, the largest is 17 ha in the deepest section of the lake where the turtle is most often seen surfacing and active. The smaller 1.4 ha is located in front of a recently constructed sand bank built to provide a nesting opportunity for turtles in the lake. The zones were proposed in a bid to conserve the Hoan Kiem turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), considered the world’s rarest turtle with only four living animals known in existence and Dong Mo Lake in Northern Vietnam being the only known wild location where a single animal has been confirmed surviving.

It is fantastic to see the no fishing zones going in, Dong Mo Lake is privately managed and not a protected area so their development and management has been a completely voluntary action by the lake owner, Mr Pham Xuan Tu. The zones are supported in the form of no hunting agreements by over 40 local fishermen who work at the lake and who on occasion almost accidentally catch large Rafetus when they become entangled in their nets. This often leads to the nets becoming destroyed much to the frustration of the fishermen. It is hoped both no fishing zones will reduce the accidental tangling of the turtles while provide a refuge for both fish and turtles within the lake. The no fishing zone will be monitored as part of the on-going efforts of the ATP local team at the site, and will be supported by the lake owner’s fisherman team. During the spring-summer of 2015, we hope to add submerged tree stumps and logs into sections of the larger zone and rafts of floating grasses to provide a more diverse habitat for all wildlife but particularly the turtles and fish.

Mr Pham Xuan Tu, the owner of Dong Mo Lake said, “When the idea of a no fishing zone was first discussed, most of the fishermen and even myself felt it was a strange idea as we had never heard about such a thing before. After listening to the presentation that no fishing zones can bring very good benefits to our fish stock and income as well as the turtles, we now totally support this idea”. Mr Tu, a life long fisherman, reported that he believed that the native fish stocks today has decreased 30%-40% compared to levels seen15 years ago because of overexploitation. With some species such as the Barbel chub- (Squaliobarbus curriculus), Yellowcheek (Elopichthys bambusa) not seen for over a decade and other species like the Common bream (Abramis brama) now rare. He even described “Con Giai” (the local name for Rafetus swinhoei) as very common 20-30 years ago with many animals weighing tens of kilograms climbing to the bank to sun bask, sometimes so large they even scared the fishermen. But after years of heavy hunting, only a handful of animals may remain in the lake. Mr Tu hopes that the no fishing zone will help not only his fish stocks recover, but also possibly “Con Giai”.

We would like to thank all those who have supported the Rafetus swinhoei Project and the Turtle Conservation Fund (TCF), Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), IUCN and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo who have supported the no fishing zone.  We would also like to thank our local partners and agencies, Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), and the fishing team of Mr Pham Xuan Tu who helped organize this successful project.

Date: 9th February 2015
Press release by: Pham Van Thong & Timothy McCormack – ATP

No comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *