Diyala conservation efforts

Illegal fishing threatens endangered turtle

DIYALA, January 28 — The Directorate of Environment and River Police in Diyala have initiated a significant campaign to protect endangered aquatic species, including the Euphrates softshell turtle.

Yusuf Saadi, an engineer with the Environment Directorate, highlighted the crisis. “The rivers of Diyala witness ongoing illegal fishing operations leading to a decline in the numbers of endangered aquatic species,” he said. These harmful practices include both direct fishing and electrofishing, which is particularly devastating as it kills everything in its range.

“The initial field visits focused on the Tigris River,” Saadi explained, detailing the campaign’s efforts to assess biodiversity and educate local fishermen. The primary concern is the conservation of the Euphrates softshell turtle, locally known as Al-Rafash.

He further commented on the turtle’s critical status, noting, “This species, originating from the Syrian Al-Raqqa governorate, has seen a 60-70% decline in recent years.” He attributed this decline to various factors, including widespread hunting driven by misconceptions about the turtle’s medicinal properties.

Saadi stressed the legal protection of the Al-Rafash in Iraq. “Violators face legal consequences,” he warned, underscoring the campaign’s dual focus on law enforcement and public awareness to prevent the hunting of this endangered species.