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Friday, 29 June, 2001, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
International turtle rescue plan drawn up
Green turtle
The green turtle is among six species at risk
Eight countries have agreed for the first time to back a plan to protect endangered marine turtles.

The rescue package covers six key species, which live in waters off South East Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Trade in hawksbill turtle trunks
Trade in turtle shells has had devastating effects on the hawksbill
Bordering nations have agreed to a wide-ranging scheme to help reverse their decline, the United Nations Environment Programme said on Thursday.

Conservation efforts cover the loggerhead, leatherback, flatback, olive ridley, hawksbill and green turtles.

The United States, Australia, Comoros, Iran, Myanmar, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Tanzania agreed to the measures at a meeting in Manila.

The plan was drawn up by the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), an international treaty linked to the United Nations Environment Programme.

Other countries may sign the agreement, which comes into effect in September, after review by their governments.

Package of measures

Douglas Hykle, Deputy Executive Secretary at the CMS, said the turtle conservation programme was a vital new development for saving these culturally and ecologically important species.

Leatherback turtle
This old leatherback turtle was washed up far from home, in Cornwall, UK
"Having existed on Earth for millions of years, sea turtles are an important component of the marine ecosystem, and serve as indicators of the health of the environment in which they live," he said.

"The measures to be taken focus on reducing threats, conserving critical habitat, exchanging scientific information, increasing public awareness and participation, promoting regional co-operation and finding funding for implementing this vital conservation work," Mr Hykle added.

Turtle soup

There has been a dramatic decline in the number of marine turtles in the region in recent years. This is due to a number of factors.

Turtle meat and eggs are seen as a delicacy in many countries, which has led to overhunting.

The animals frequently become entangled in fishing nets, and die.

They are also in danger because of development of the beaches where they nest and destruction of their feeding habitat.

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