Assistant Information Officer
Department of Information & Public Relations
Turtle conservation in the Virgin Islands will receive support through the launch of a film and an online survey by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in conjunction with the Marine Conservation Society.
The film titled, “Turtles in the Virgin Islands: Balancing conservation and culture”, is a documentary style production previously launched by the conservation society to observe World Sea Turtle Day on June 16. The film was also shown at a series of workshops locally.
Director of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Mr. Theodore James said the workshops hosted by his department involved over 150 participants discussing the future of sea turtle conservation and use in the Virgin Islands. He said the sessions enabled the department to ascertain the views of the community on turtle fishing and conservation.
Mr. James said, “The online survey continues to collect these local views and values which we will take into account along with social and biological scientific evidence to inform legislative changes we are planning this year. Persons who are interested in sea turtles are invited to view this informative film which also touches on the Virgin Islands’ culture, its marine spaces and the wild life it supports.”
Mr. James, further encouraged the Virgin Islands community to take the short survey to ensure that their voices are heard.
Meanwhile, Dr Shannon Gore from the Association of Reef Keepers (ARK) said sea turtle research has been carried out in the Virgin Islands consistently for over two decades and that there are significant changes in the numbers of the species.
Dr. Gore added, “During that time, there has also been a lot of controversy over the turtle fishery. The Sustaining Turtles, Environment Economies and Livelihoods (STEEL) project seeks to improve turtle conservation in the Virgin Islands while taking into consideration local culture and values associated with turtle use.”
The Association of Reef Keepers has coordinated the project biological research such as turtle tagging and habitat surveys with the support of the Department of Agriculture and the University of Exeter, while the Marine Conservation Society has coordinated the social science using their Community Voice Method which engages communities in conservation issues through film and workshops.
The conservation society has run similar processes to reform turtle fisheries in the Turks and Caicos Islands and Montserrat and has filmed interviews with community members across the Virgin Islands to produce the documentary.
The film ‘Turtles in the Virgin Islands – balancing conservation and culture’ and survey can be accessed online at - http://bitly.ws/KW4V