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Tracking sea-turtles

David Gregory | 14:43 UK time, Tuesday, 29 November 2011


We've covered the work of the Marine Conservation Society from Ross-on-Wye before. But as well as projects in the waters around the UK they also tackle research and more further afield.

One project is looking at falling numbers of nesting sea-turtles in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I spoke to Amdeep Sanghera (that's him in the photo, the blue thing is a satellite tracker) about the work of the MCS in the caribbean.

Turtle being release with satellite tracker attached

He was back in Birmingham after two years out in the islands. And we met at the Sea Life Centre which has two sea-turtles of it's own. Amdeep was particularly impressed with their male!

Amdeep explained that his role in the caribbean was to liaise with the local people and understand more about the place of turtles in their community. The TCI have the largest legal turtle harvest of any British Overseas Territory. The MCS wanted to make sure local people would support any suggested changes to the law to protect the turtles.

So as well as helping trap, tag and release turtles Amdeep also spent plenty of time getting to know the locals. Spending his days at the docks, in church and even joining a local band.

One of the more interesting new ideas is that the existing laws about harvesting turtles which date from the 70's are wrong. As is the case with fish it was assumed at the time that you should harvest the larger animals and throw back the smaller ones.

That might work for fish but it's completely the wrong way round for turtles. Because we now know it's the bigger, older turtles who are doing all the egg laying. So they need to be left alone.

When Amdeep returns to the TCIs he will spend time talking about the new laws the MCS has helped draft with local fishermen and others. The proposals include a closed season for one species and new rules stopping turtles over a certain size being harvested.

The MCS hope these new laws will be welcomed by the islanders and eventually lead to the nesting turtle populations recovering although it will be years before we can be sure things are improving.

In the meantime you can track the turtles tagged by the MCS in the Turks and Caicos Islands via satellite on their website. Some of them potter about the bays of the islands but every now and again one will head off on a massive journeys of thousands of miles. My favourite is of course David.


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