Sea turtle conversation project kicks off in the British Virgin Islands

News > The Caribbean

By STEM Caribbean | Posted on November 9, 2020

Image: Pixabay

A three-year sea turtle conservation project titled “Sustaining Turtles, Environment, Economies, and Livelihoods (STEEL)” is now underway in the British Virgin Islands, according to the Government of the Virgin Islands. The project is being carried out through a partnership between the BVI’s Government and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), a marine charity based in the UK, the University of Exeter in the UK, and the Association of Reef Keepers (ARK) BVI.  

This project seeks to support turtle population management and the recovery of critical habitats, including reefs and seagrass meadows. ARK, based in the BVI, is expected to work together with the MCS to lead the project there, whereas the University of Exeter intends to provide technical academic advice towards the initiative. Based on the official announcement, the local project team will also involve the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration in the BVI.   

Through the project, the turtles’ status is anticipated to be better understood in the Virgin Islands, while awareness of turtle conversation among BVI residents is expected to improve.  

The project’s goal involves incorporating the MCS’s Community Voice Method (CVM) to engage the local community in developing legislation recommendations and a conservation action plan to protect the Virgin Islands’ turtle populations for future generations.  

In addition, the project proposed solutions include providing scientific evidence on turtles at different life stages. The project also intends to provide scientific data on the condition of different turtle habitats.  

In the virtual launch event, Project Leader Dr. Peter Richardson, Head of Ocean Recovery at MCS, zealously spoke about the history of how the project came about. He and a team were observing the status and use of turtles in the BVI some 18 years ago and made recommendations from their work. Now they’ve “finally secured some UK Government funding,” for the project he says.   

Project Co-Leader Dr. Shannon Gore of ARK presented information on sea turtles around the world and in the BVI. She noted that out of the seven known species of sea turtles worldwide, six are recognised as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.  

Although the initiative has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some work has been done so far, Dr. Gore stated. The team looks forward to getting out on the field and engaging with the community throughout the project’s duration.   

Also, they’re inviting Virgin Islanders to share their knowledge of sea turtles and sea turtle conservation via an online survey:, which is a component of the project.   

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