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Plan to protect turtles unveiled

Efforts to conserve resident populations of green and hawksbill turtles have been announced.

A management plan has been drawn up by the Department of Conservation Services in consultation with scientists and sea turtle specialists.

The main aim of the initiative, titled “Recovery Plan for Bermuda's Resident Green and Hawksbill Turtles”, is to protect the species and their habitats, and to contribute to national, regional, and global conservation efforts for marine turtles through knowledge-sharing and participation in international agreements.

The plan, which was mandated under section seven of the 2003 Protected Species Act, discusses the conservation efforts required to meet these goals, as well as distribution, habitat requirements, biology and threats for Bermuda's resident turtle populations.

It makes several recommendations, including the undertaking of an accurate assessment of the current population status of both species, and increasing education regarding the human threats towards sea turtles and their critical habitats in Bermuda.

The plan also recommends increasing the number of international agreements signed by Bermuda pertaining to the regional management and protection of sea turtles, the identification and legal protection of important sea turtle habitats, and enhancement of the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN).

“Bermuda has a long history of progressive legal protection for its sea turtles,” said Jeanne Atherden, Minister of Health, Seniors and Environment.

“Beginning in 1620, the First Bermuda Assembly passed a law prohibiting the taking of young turtles.

“Further laws protecting sea turtles were passed in 1937, 1947, 1963, 1972 and 1978, which placed various restrictions on weight limits, seasonal fishing activities and ultimately imposed a total fishing ban on all sea turtles within Bermuda's territorial waters,” Ms Atherden said. “In 2012 four species of sea turtles were listed under the Protected Species Act — the green turtle, hawksbill turtle, loggerhead turtle and leatherback turtle. All are present around Bermuda, but only the first two species actually reside here year-round.”

Ms Atherden added: “I wish to commend the Department of Conservation Services for their efforts in continuing to protect these beautiful creatures.”

The greatest perceived threats to turtles are associated with human activities. These include collision with motor boats and jet skis, entanglement in discarded fishing line, loss of seagrass habitat through dredging activities, damage from boat moorings and ecological processes, and incidental catch from fishing activities.

The Department of Conservation Services encourages the public to report sick, injured and dead sea turtles to the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo by calling 293-2727.

The information learnt from each incidence helps researchers to determine sources of injury and mortality, and the staff work hard to rehabilitate those turtles that can be released back into the wild. The contact names and numbers for animal strandings (marine mammals, turtles, birds) are available at www.conservation.bm/contacts-for-strandings-and-em/

To view the plan, visit the Department of Conservation Services website at www.conservation.bm

A Green Turtle pops up for air at the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo. The Green Turtle is an endangered species that once nested on the island and was used by early settlers for oil, food and their shells. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published December 10, 2014 at 1:20 pm (Updated December 11, 2014 at 12:39 am)

Plan to protect turtles unveiled

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