A new season and a new law bring new opportunities, challenges for conservation of one of the
world’s most endangered sea turtle populations.
The Loggerhead sea turtle is the main species that nests in Cabo Verde
PR-Inside.com: 2018-07-11 15:27:28
This month marks the official start of the 2018 nesting season in Cabo Verde, and with it comes high expectations for the enforcement of new landmark legislation that protects the Loggerhead sea turtle.
The new law, formally approved by the President Jorge Carlos Fonseca on May 21 of this year, is the first in the country’s history to address the wide scope of threats that negatively impact the local population of Loggerhead sea turtle. This species, which nests from late June to late October throughout the ten-island archipelago is one of five marine turtle species found in the surrounding waters and the only marine turtle species that nests regularly in Cabo Verde.
Though the government first introduced legislation prohibiting the capture of sea turtles in 1987, lack of enforcement meant offenders were rarely convicted. As a result, rampant poaching, habitat degradation, and overdevelopment have made this population of Loggerheads the eighth most endangered marine turtle population worldwide. With the new legislation, prohibited infractions now include not only the killing, consumption, and trade of turtle meat but also
disturbances to the nesting process and destruction of habitat, with governing bodies now required to prosecute corresponding offenses to the full extent of the law.
This also marks the first time that all sectors are being held accountable for the protection of the species, of particular relevance to islands like Sal and Boa Vista that are heavily impacted by international trade and tourism. Sal Island, the country’s unofficial ‘tourism’ capital, saw a promising increase in nesting activity in 2017 with over 7,700 nests recorded on the island – an 87% increase from 2016. However, the corresponding increase in sea turtles killed – 240 out of over 600 nationwide – is a clear indicator of the ongoing need for more diligent protection.
Project Biodiversity is one of several conservation organizations that work combat threats to sea turtles in Cabo Verde, and the representative environmental protection association on Sal. In addition to their direct protection efforts, a primary focus for the organization this year will be to engage key stakeholders in garnering support for the new legislation as well as to work closely with authorities to ensure the parameters of the new law are both widely understood and systematically enforced.
“This legislation is the result of a long journey towards legalized protection and is a testament to the incredible hard work of those who have contributed to marine turtle conservation efforts in Cabo Verde,” said Berta Renom, Executive Director of Project Biodiversity. “Our next challenge now will be enforcement. As with any new legislation, raising awareness and support takes time, and the dedication and good coordination of authorities and stakeholders will play a critical role in the success of this conservation measure.”
Sal’s influx of tourism has rapidly increased over the last three years, placing a heavy burden on the island’s wildlife and ecosystems. In addition to outreach within the local communities, Project Biodiversity is partnering with stakeholders to develop initiatives that encourage tour agencies, excursion guides and visitors alike to take an active role in protecting the island’s resources.
In this vein, with support from the TUI Care Foundation, Project Biodiversity has partnered with the Travel Foundation to train over 40 guides in best practices for guiding nature excursions, with modules in turtle watching, shark excursions and responsible guiding practices. Cabo Verde is the third most important nesting site for the Loggerhead sea turtle in the world and the second in the northern Atlantic. On average, the islands record between 10,000 – 30,000 nests over the course of a season. General trends seem to be increasing, however, with the country’s national sea turtle network citing a record season with over 43,000 nests throughout the islands in 2017. Similar numbers are expected for this upcoming year.
For those traveling to Sal and looking to experience nesting turtles, here are five tips for responsible turtle watching:
● Do your research: contact local associations about interacting with wildlife.
○ If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to local NGOs directly for information on the safest way to observe nesting sea turtles.
● Book Smart: when choosing an excursion, only go with an accredited guide.
○ Going to the beach with an experienced tour guide is essential, both for your own safety and that of the turtles.
● Be Proactive: Reduce your own impact.
○ Travel with guides who have group limits. Groups should not have more than 10
○ Always dress in dark clothes. Turtles are extremely sensitive to movement!
○ Never use white light. This includes smartphones screens and camera flashes.
● Report harmful behavior: if you see something, say something!
○ If you find yourself with a guide that isn't following these guidelines, you can help avoid future incidents by leaving a complaint in the hotel or tour agency where you booked your excursion.
About Project Biodiversity:
Project Biodiversity (Projeto Biodiversidade) is a Cabo Verdean non-profit organization committed to the protection of wildlife through community-focused environmental initiatives in Sal, Cape Verde. Since its inception in 2015, Project Biodiversity has led the direct protection and conservation efforts on the island, conducting nightly patrols during the nesting season and maintaining hatcheries to protect endangered nests. During the months of June through October, the NGO focuses its efforts on the protection and conservation of the Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) in order to combat poaching and other human threats that still pose an ongoing threat to the survival of Cabo Verde’s wildlife.