M. Zahirul Islam

Sea Turtle Program-Bangladesh, Marinelife Alliance, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

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In Bangladesh, the major sea turtle nesting season is in winter (October to March/April). The national lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic began on 26th March 2020 and has, to date, continued throughout June. Within the lockdown period, human activity continued as many people are daily wage earners or operate small businesses, especially in major cities. In coastal areas, the lockdown was more strictly followed and there was no tourism. Some fishing activities continued, although it was not supposed to during the lockdown.

The NGO Marinelife Alliance (MLA) runs a community-based research and conservation program involving local conservation assistants (CAs). All 56 CAs live in beach front villages along 350km of the southeast and south-central coast. They continued conducting night observation and mitigating threats such as disturbance of nesting turtles and illegal take of eggs; this task was easier than usual during the lockdown because there was no crowding and disturbance. A setback was that biologists and central researchers could not move to the field. This challenge was overcome by the well-trained CAs sharing their data via cellphone and social media. Another major impact of the lockdown was that ecotour operators who previously provided financial support for MLA conservation activities could not do so. The lack of tourists has allowed beach vegetation and invertebrates to flourish during the lockdown, with sand dunes forming along the beach and beach morning glory (Ipomeas pp.) growing to protect the shoreline and support beach biodiversity.