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Conservation of turtles at Bloody Bay



by Louise Mitchell-Joseph,
Chairperson, SVG National Trust

Unlike the sparrow, the iguana or the dolphins, who are all happy to exist in relatively close proximity to human beings, the turtle is a species that does not like to be around mankind. In particular, when the turtle is seeking a habitat to lay its eggs, it will find the most isolated beach. A turtle will not lay its eggs on a beach where there is human activity.{{more}} They must lay their eggs in total darkness. One such habitat where the leatherback and hawksbill turtles come to lay their eggs is Bloody Bay on Union Island.

There are conservationists on Union Island who understand and respect how this special species functions and have developed the art of turtle watching, in a manner that is not at all harmful to the social patterns of the turtle.

The National Trust recognises turtle watching as a viable industry that is in harmony with the natural environment and, indeed, can be developed into a sustainable livelihood. To give support to the people of Union Island to develop the art of turtle watching and bird watching, the Trust applied to the UNDP global environmental facility small grants programme, and in December 2010, was able to secure a grant for approximately US$50,000.00. This grant will go towards the conservation of the hawksbill and leatherback turtles and seek to make Bloody Bay at Union Island a protected area.

The project, which will begin in earnest at the end of January, will identify and train ten (10) persons from Union Island in turtle and bird watching, in part by financing them to visit the Matura Turtle Village in Tobago.

The overall objectives of the project are:

1. To train and license 10 local tour guides in the practices of turtle watching/conservation.

2. To raise public awareness of the importance of developing sustainable livelihoods.

4. To create a turtle watching cooperative and to purchase equipment for its usage.

5. To take steps towards making Bloody Bay a protected area.

The National Trust is of the view that all development must be sustainable, in that it must be in harmony with the environment. For a country that is dependent on tourism, as we are, we must be careful not to destroy the very thing that makes our tourism successful, that is our natural beauty, our flora and our fauna.

There must be beaches (and zoned reserve areas surrounding them), where persons are not allowed to build, and which remain as nature sanctuaries, where our flora and fauna will flourish without man’s intrusive influence.

If this project is successful, the National Trust will seek to replicate it in selected areas across the country, by lending assistance to persons involved in sustainable livelihoods all over St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines establish that it is illegal to eat turtle meat during the closed season of March 1st to July 31st. The following activities are banned year round:

(1) Taking or disturbing turtle eggs or nests

(2) Taking, selling or buying undersized turtles or turtle shells

So, think the next time you consider buying a turtle shell if you may be breaking the law.

Imagine a sky without birds; imagine a sea without turtles and fish…. this is all possible if we do not take steps to create sanctuaries where special habitats can be maintained to ensure the reproduction of wildlife. It is our moral responsibility to leave this earth a richer place than it was when God brought us into it. This can be done by planting a tree or saving a turtle.

“If you can fill the unforgiving minute of sixty seconds worth of distance run, earth is yours and everything that’s in it, and which is more, you will be a man my son.” Kipling.