EAD records Abu Dhabi’s first rare green turtle nest


During its annual turtle survey and as part of the marine assessment and conservation programme, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) recorded the first nest of ‘green turtles’ at one of the core Hawksbill turtle nesting sites in Al Dhafra Region. Although Green turtles are found extensively in Abu Dhabi’s waters, nesting activity has never been reported. Ahmed Al Hashmi, Executive Director of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at EAD, said, “During one of our nocturnal turtle surveys conducted this year, we spotted a Green sea turtle nesting at one of our core Hawksbill turtle nest locations. Abu Dhabi offshore islands are known Hawksbill turtle nesting sites, however, this discovery is considered an aberration
and will be added to the sporadic records of Green turtle nesting behaviour in the UAE and in countries along the Arabian Gulf.
“We normally conduct annual monitoring of all recognised and potential nesting areas, and although Green turtles forage extensively on seagrass meadows in Abu Dhabi, no evidence has ever been found to suggest that they have nested in any other location within the emirate. We have also seen from previous satellite tracking studies on Abu Dhabi’s Green turtles that most have migrated to Oman to nest before returning to our waters.” He added, “The island where the nest was seen is characterised by multiple, small pocket beaches separated by rocky outcrops — a contrast to Oman’s long and wide beaches where Green sea turtles nest in abundance, which is why this is an unexpected sighting, but the EAD is committed to continue extensive monitoring of all confirmed and potential beaches for any similar occurrences.
“We also recorded a total of 247 Hawksbill turtle nests this year, in comparison to 193 nests in 2022, with a 72 percent hatching success — a sign of this species’ population stability in Abu Dhabi waters. This increase in nesting activity reflects the EAD’s efforts to protect its marine turtle populations, with nesting seen as a key indicator of a healthy marine ecosystem.”
In Abu Dhabi, most Hawksbill and Green turtles have been spotted in the waters of Al Dhafra region between the islands of Abu Al Abyadh and Bu Tinah, and the waters bordering the islands of Al Yasat and Muhayimat.
These areas offer extensive seagrass beds, marine algae, and coral reef habitats. Seven marine turtle species are found worldwide. Four can be spotted in Abu Dhabi’s waters, with a total population of more 6,000 individuals — two of which, the Hawksbill and Green turtle — are predominantly found here, with two other species — the Loggerhead turtle and the Olive Ridley turtle — considered occasional visitors.
Nesting occurs from mid-March to mid-June, and more than 200 nests are reported during the nesting season. Hatching usually occurs between mid-June and early August. Females are pretty selective when choosing their nest site and have often been spotted emerging onto a beach for several consecutive nights before finding an ideal spot with soft sand, secluded from human activity.
The increased nesting and hatchling activity recorded during this year’s turtle survey provides further evidence of Abu Dhabi’s healthy marine ecosystems. It reinforces the effectiveness of the EAD’s robust marine environment protection and rehabilitation policies and its efforts to establish and manage natural reserves through the Sheikh Zayed Protect Areas Network. Its six marine reserves represent 14 percent of the emirate’s marine environment area and contribute to preserving biodiversity and the stability of important species in Abu Dhabi. In 2022, UNEP named the EAD’s Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Preservation and Rehabilitation Programmes among its top ten global initiatives.

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