Sea turtles are flagship species for coastal and marine habitats in Cambodia and are categorized as Endangered Species under Cambodian Law. Among the sea turtle species found in Cambodia, the hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata is categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the green turtle Chelonia mydas as Endangered. Sea turtles are also listed on Appendix I of CITES, which bans international trade of these animals. In 2015 a Cambodian provincial consultation of coastal community members identified fishing, habitat degradation, coastal and island development, and pollution from solid waste and ghost nets as the main threats to sea turtles in Cambodia.
Because of their threatened status in Cambodia both national and international frameworks are now addressing the need to manage and conserve these species. Following consultation and review led by Fauna & Flora International, Cambodia, and the Fisheries Administration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the nation's first action plan for sea turtles was approved by the Director of General of the Fisheries Administration in October 2017.
This Sea Turtle National Action Plan for Cambodia (2016–2026) is a landmark step towards managing and conserving these threatened species. Protecting sea turtles and their threatened habitats in Cambodia will be achieved through the following complementary objectives: (1) reducing anthropogenic threats that cause mortality of sea turtles and their eggs, (2) protecting and rehabilitating sea turtle foraging and nesting grounds, (3) strengthening research and monitoring of sea turtle populations, foraging and nesting habitats, and bycatch reduction methods, (4) increasing public awareness of the threats to sea turtles and their habitats, and enhancing public participation in conservation activities, and (5) strengthening national and transboundary collaboration, and regional and international information sharing on sea turtles.
Fauna & Flora International will take a leading role in supporting Cambodia's Fisheries Administration to deliver this action plan while coordinating Cambodia's Sea Turtle Network—a unique collective of private, public, community and NGO partners with a joint commitment to protect these charismatic marine species.