Endangered Species Day: Jamaica’s Sea Turtles Are Living on the Edge

Hawksbill sea turtle
Hawksbill sea turtle

Petchary’s Blog reminds us that yesterday marked the 15th Annual Endangered Species Day, and makes a plea for the protection of sea turtles. Here are excerpts:

There was a painful, sad post on social media this morning: the Bluefields Bay Fishermen’s Friendly Society needs help to save and protect our Sea Turtles. On May 8 and 14, 2020 two females were killed and all the body parts stolen.

Our Game Wardens are ready and able but are in need of your financial support to get to the site at nights. Please help us save our Sea Turtles by donating to our Monitoring Programme,” added dedicated conservationist Wolde Kristos of Bluefields, Westmoreland. Resources are slim for us to help these wonderful creatures. If you would like to help sustain the monitoring program, please let me know.

For the record, the existence of all four of the sea turtle species to be found in Caribbean waters is threatened. They are all protected under Jamaica’s Endangered Species Act. The two that were killed in Bluefields were Hawksbill Turtles; we also have Green Turtles, Loggerhead Turtles and Leatherback Turtles.

[.  . .] It’s hard to believe that some two or three hundred years ago, there were huge breeding populations of sea turtles – according to records, the seas were literally crowded with them. They were harvested for food until numbers declined drastically.

Sea turtles move around, so it’s important for countries to co-operate across the region in conservation projects. There is a Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network(WIDECAST), which is working on a regional approach and is coordinated by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in the Caribbean, based in Kingston, also promotes conservation programs under its Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) Protocol. Although the SPAW Protocol Secretariat has its home in Kingston, Jamaica is one of the few countries that have not yet formally ratified it. UNEP notes there are benefits to be obtained from acceding to the Protocol, which falls under the Cartagena Convention on Biodiversity. These would include support for marine protected areas, conservation of endangered species such as our turtles, small grants, etc. I am not sure why there is this reluctance on the part of the Jamaican Government.

Eco-tourism would certainly be an obvious way in which we could encourage the conservation of endangered species such as our turtles, and some hotels actively include environmental education and activities in their programmes and support marine conservation programs. In Jamaica these supportive hotels include Jamaica Inn, Couples, and Sandals through its Foundation. There are also several non-governmental and community-based organizations around the island that have turtle monitoring programs, forging partnerships with fishers and community members. These include the Alligator Head Foundation in eastern Portland, which has established the East Portland Fish Sanctuary; the Oracabessa Foundation in St. Mary, which boasts one of the most successful turtle conservation projects in the Caribbean; Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), which has worked with communities in Portland, St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland to monitor sea turtle nesting, providing training and equipment; and Bluefields itself of course. [. . .]

For full article and to access more information on how you can help, see https://petchary.wordpress.com/2020/05/16/endangered-species-day-jamaicas-sea-turtles-are-living-on-the-edge/

 

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