Sonadia Island, along the southeastern coast of Bangladesh, is a small, unspoiled oasis in one of the world’s most densely populated nations. Sand dunes run along one entire coast. There are large patches of mangrove and salt marshes, the last remnants of mangrove forests that once stretched along the Chittagong coastline. The array of wildlife here is astounding. It includes green, hawksbill, and olive ridley sea turtles, abundant fish species, and at least four globally threatened dolphins. There are at least 70 species of migratory birds, including the Eurasian curlew—the same species protected by Seacology’s project half a world away in Ireland!
This project will conserve 8,000 acres along the island’s coast, including mangroves, mudflats, and sea. The communities (2,500 people in three villages) have agreed to stop hunting shorebirds and collecting turtle eggs there. They will also remove illegal fishing gear, which crisscrosses the mangrove canals and traps sea turtles.
MarineLife Alliance Bangladesh was our NGO partner in the successful St. Martin’s Island project. MLA has been working on sea turtle education and conservation in the area since 2004. MLA will work with community members to monitor beaches during turtle nesting season. The nesting sites are pristine, which is unique in Bangladesh. Approximately 350 to 400 females nest there each year.
The government has declared the island an ecotourism site, which should encourage visitors. A Seacology grant will fund the first mangrove education center in all of Bangladesh. The center will educate both tourists and community members about the importance of the mangrove ecosystem. It will also provide income for local people, who have few livelihood options.