Turtle in the hand worth two in the sea?
Turtle in the hand worth two in the sea?

Dominica Sea Turtle population in decline, climate change, plastics and illegal hunting are highlighted in new report from the Dominica Sea Turtle Conservation Organization (DOmSeTCO).

Dominica's population of nesting sea turtles, depended upon for tourism, has declined dramatically, according to a new report from the Dominica Sea Turtle Conservation Organization (DOmSeTCO). However, the report stresses that it is not too late to rescue Dominica's sea turtles, but action must be taken immediately, including prosecuting those which illegally hunt the endangered species.

DOmSeTCO is the authorized nonprofit organization that coordinates a national sightings network as well as represent Dominica to the Wider Caribbean Area Sea Turtle Network. Thirty staff and volunteers across Dominica help monitor sea turtle activity in this effort. The report, publically released today and available online, details a sharp decline over 10 years of nesting data.

"Sea turtles are sensitive to climate change, to build a resilient Dominica, we must ensure nature is resilient" says Charles Watty, volunteer coordinator of DOmSeTCO operations in the North, and who has taken thousands of tourists on nighttime turtle tours. According to Watty, "we may not be able to stop climate change, however we can take steps to ensure the nature Dominica depends upon is resilient by reducing the stressors we can control, such as illegal hunting". Healthy reefs, fisheries and our tourism economy all depend on sea turtles. They keep algae in check, allowing corals to grow, and make for an improved tourism experience.

To ensure turtles in Dominica can continue to generate employment, we need to reduce their stressors so that they can be more resilient to climate change. DOmSeTCO encourages the public to report illegal hunting of nesting turtles to their confidential National hotline at 265-0908.

Dominica has already taken steps in the right direction. 'Phasing out single use plastics will have a tremendous impact. According to Marvin Augustine, DOmSeTCO volunteer patroller for the La Plain area. However, 'banning plastic alone won't be enough to ensure sea turtle populations remain in Dominica.' In the report of nesting activity from 2014-2018, there has been more than a 60% decline in nesting leatherback sea turtles. "We can take immediate steps to ensure turtles exist by enforcing existing protections. That means not turning our backs when we see illegal hunting, dogs disturbing turtles or their nests, and that prosecuting illegal hunting bears a punishment reflective of how we collectively view the importance of sea turtles to Dominica.

The ocean and its habitat are invaluable to Dominica and its communities. True climate resiliency must focus on the natural infrastructure upon which our communities depend. If Dominica is to be truly climate resistant, we must consider our wild residents as well as our people.

Since 2003, DOmSeTCO has worked to protect sea turtles, their habitats and ensure growing economic opportunities in Dominica though research, education and sustainable development.