Caribbean sea turtles close to extinction

A A A

Sea turtles in the Caribbean are perilously close to extinction because of over-fishing and over-development, an official report has discovered.

Sea turtles in the Caribbean are perilously close to extinction because of over-fishing and over-development, an official report has discovered.

The collapse of turtle numbers on some of the Caribbean's most famous and glamorous islands has been so severe that in Bermuda turtles no longer breed any more.

In the Cayman Islands, the idyllic archipelago that once supported millions of turtles, biologists fear the hawksbill turtle is locally extinct.

The findings, which follow a three-year, government-funded investigation carried out by biologists at Exeter University and the Marine Conservation Society, have alarmed environmentalists.

Local fishermen and biologists have noticed the slow decline in turtle numbers for some years, but the new study has, for the first time, revealed the extent of the crisis.

Turtles were once the most important source of food and income and played a vital part in the culture of the islands. The Cayman Islands were originally settled because of their vast turtle populations, then the largest in the Atlantic.

But now, on most of the British Overseas Territories surveyed for the study, the total number of female turtles that nest on beaches each year is probably fewer than 50. Only in the Turks and Caicos Islands are turtles still plentiful, thanks to the vast sea grass beds nearby.

Gina Ebanks-Petrie, head of the Cayman Islands' Depart-ment of the Environment, remembers her grandfather making a living from turtle fishing. Now the situation is so acute, she is discussing a complete ban on all turtle harvesting - a measure already introduced on neighbouring Anguilla.

Professor Brendan Godley, who led the study, said the predicament was so severe because of the turtles' long life and breeding cycles. Most females do not begin breeding until they are 20 or 30 years old and then lay eggs only once every three years. Because of the high number of eggs lost to predators and to the elements, in some cases, only one egg in a thousand will lead to an adult, breeding turtle.

To make matters worse, an island's turtles rarely breed with another island's turtles. Females return to the beach they were born on to breed. However, many beaches, mangrove swamps and sea grass beds - all essential habitats for nesting and for feeding - are being lost to tourism developments such as marinas.

While islanders are already voluntarily cutting back on the numbers of turtles they catch and are trying to protect breeding grounds, local poverty has forced them to demand help from the UK.

Despite £250,000 having been spent on this and similar conservation projects, Professor Godley agreed the Government had to spend far more helping the territories to ensure turtle fishing could continue at a sustainable level. "Otherwise they will be lost for ever," he said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable