Thanks to the efforts of WIDECAST, the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtles Network, and those of all partners in Jamaica, the Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan (STRAP) for Jamaica, a new plan in the series of UNEP-CEP/WIDECAST recovery action plan for sea turtles in the Wider Caribbean, is now completed and will be available on-line soon (www.widecast.org/Resources/STRAPs.html and to http://www.cep.unep.org/publications-and-resources/technical-reports/technical-reports)! Below is the abstract of the STRAP, thathas been prepared by WIDECAST (in english).
Once abundant in Jamaican waters, sea turtles have declined catastrophically. Four species - the green turtle, hawksbill, leatherback, and loggerhead - once occurred regularly in Jamaica, and sightings of the Kemp's ridley are persistent but unconfirmed. A century ago, the green turtle was the most abundant species; today, hawksbills are more frequently encountered. The other species are very rare.
Declines are attributed to over-exploitation of females and eggs on nesting beaches, combined with destruction and disturbance of nesting and foraging (seagrass, coral) habitat. Population declines are evident in landing data showing, for example, decreasing catches between 1963 and 1982 despite an increase in fishing effort, and decreasing numbers of nests laid since records were first collated for WATS I in 1983. Survey results indicate that nesting by three (of an original four) species has all but vanished from the country and that, of the remaining hawksbill nesting effort, few beaches boast more than 10 nests (perhaps 2-3 females) per year. Egg collection remains widespread, with some residents reporting that it has been more than a decade since a nest in their area successfully produced hatchlings.
Ironically, efforts to conserve turtle stocks began early in Jamaica. The first statute protecting sea turtle eggs on the mainland was enacted in 1711. Various regulations and laws followed, none with any marked success. Complete protection of all life stages was achieved by the Wild Life Protection Act (1945) in 1982, but the protection of habitat is poorly developed. Although trade in turtle products has been reduced since 1982, it has not been eliminated; similarly, an active fishery, mostly spear-fishermen taking hawksbills, continues unabated in nearshore waters as well as on the more distant Pedro Bank. The illegal activity has been attributed to a large number of inter-connected factors, which can be summarised as lack of resources to enforce regulations and to educate the various stakeholders in the importance of protecting turtles and their habitats.
In an attempt to redress this imbalance, the Sea Turtle Recovery Network (STRN) was founded in 1991 with the assistance and support of WIDECAST. STRN is a pioneering organisation dedicated to developing a cooperative national structure to promote sea turtle conservation. The organisation has successfully mobilised support for sea turtle conservation among government and NGOs, carried out pilot surveys, and produced the present document. Priorities include research and monitoring at Index sites representing the most important areas for nesting and foraging by the various species; eliminating the illegal take and marketing of sea turtles and their products; quantifying and mitigating bycatch mortality; strengthening law enforcement and management capacity; improving compliance; promoting a deeper public commitment to conservation; and protecting sea turtle habitats, specifically in protected areas and generally through better control of pollution and development.
This Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan provides the framework and direction for a much-needed campaign to save Jamaica.s sea turtle populations from extinction. Specifically, the document describes a five-year national Sea Turtle Conservation Programme to achieve, inter alia, national consultations on STRAP implementation, an inventory of active sea turtle nesting beaches, a national network of long-term monitoring at Index sites (nesting, foraging), genetic fingerprinting. of domestic populations (nesting, foraging), professional training in sea turtle research and monitoring techniques for at least 20 trainers and supervisors within the STRN, an assessment and report of sea turtle products in Jamaica (including measures in place to eliminate the sale of worked shell products), an inventory of threats to sea turtle survival (nesting, foraging) in Jamaica, an assessment and report on sea turtle bycatch in Jamaica, development of best practices and handbooks on “Turtle-friendly Beach Development and Management” and “Recommended Regulations and Guidelines for Sea Turtle Conservation in Protected Areas”, inclusion within the national system plan for protected areas a minimum of 75% of habitat important to sea turtle nesting and foraging, a minimum of three workshops on the development of area-specific sea turtle management plans (with intent to fund and implement at least three projects arising from these plans), and certain benchmarks related to public education and awareness (e.g., posters printed, brochures distributed, airport displays established, website developed, lesson plans produced). The target result of the Programme is a 50% (or more) reduction in illegal take and sales of sea turtles, a clearer understanding of the distribution and success of the annual reproductive effort, and greater public awareness of conservation issues.
For further information, please contact the STRN through the National Environment and Planning Agency's toll-free number (888) 991-5005, or contact the Fisheries Division at 923-8811/13. Dr. Karen L. Eckert Executive Director Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST.
Dr. Karen L. Eckert
Executive Director Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST)