Dubai: The critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle is starting its nesting season on Dubai shores.
A nest was observed on February 13 in Dubai’s only marine protected area — the Jebel Ali Marine Sanctuary.
Alia Al Harmoodi, Director, Environment Department, Dubai Municipality, said two false tracks were observed near the nesting site, suggesting a hawksbill female had previously surfaced to find a suitable nesting location, before finally surfacing a third time to lay her eggs.
Major Ali Saqr Sultan Al Suwaidi, President, Emirates Marine Environmental Group (EMEG), added there were a total of 80 eggs, with an average recorded diameter of 2.5cm per egg.
Hawksbills are solitary nesters, nesting in low densities on small scattered beaches. Adult females are well adapted for crawling over reefs and rocky areas to reach secluded nesting sites.
In order to protect the eggs from poaching and predation by other animals, the eggs were relocated by EMEG staff to a more secure site that had been set up specifically for this purpose.
Aisha Al Muhairi, Director, Marine Environment and Wildlife Section, Dubai Municipality, said the sanctuary hosts several Hawksbill nests each year.
The species is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
Hawksbills are important inhabitants of coral reefs. By consuming sponges, they play an important role in the reef community, aiding corals in growth. It is estimated that one turtle can consume over 1,000 pounds (454kg) of sponges per year. Without them, sponges have the ability to overgrow corals and suffocate reefs.
The sanctuary was declared a protected site in 1998 with the main objective of conserving the marine natural resources of Dubai.
The site is under the management of the Dubai Municipality in partnership with the EMEG. It is the only remaining area in Dubai where turtles are observed to nest.