Hawksbill and Green turtle in the Caribbean UKOTs

Turtle conservation work in Montserrat begins

2 minute read

Erin O'Neill

9 Aug 2021

We've been preparing for a very special trip.

After more than a year of pandemic delays, we’re finally heading to the island of Montserrat - one of the UK’s Caribbean Overseas Territories - thanks to funding from the UK government’s Darwin Plus Initiative.

This project, A Marine Turtle Action Plan for Montserrat, is led by the Government of Montserrat and the University of Exeter, and will work with local communities to help recover and manage marine turtle populations.

The island hosts nesting populations of endangered green and critically endangered hawksbill turtles. Little is known about the size of the populations nesting there.

We will gather biological data, including nesting beach surveys and satellite tracking of the breeding female turtles, to develop a local turtle conservation action plan.

The relationship between local communities and marine turtles is poorly understood outside of the island, so we’ll be using our tried-and-tested Community Voice Method to record the thoughts, opinion, values and knowledge of local people to factor into the plan.

Conservation team, Montserrat. Peter Richardson.

The team in Montserrat (from left: Dr Sam Weber and Jack Wiggins from the Uni of Exeter, and Peter and Amdeep from the Marine Conservation Society)

Credit: Peter Richardson

A bit of island history

Montserrat is known as the Emerald Isle due to its lush forests and historical links with Ireland.

At its centre is an active volcano. Violent volcanic eruptions between 1995 and 1997 destroyed the capital Plymouth, and made about two thirds of the island uninhabitable, displacing much of the population, with many Montserratians settling in the UK.

Since then, Montserrat has faced various challenges with recovery and rebuilding, and while the ongoing pandemic has made life more difficult, Montserratians are resilient and the islanders have a strong sense of national pride and cultural identity.

Peter Richardson, fisherman Gilbert Jennings and DECR's Luc Clerveaux about to release a satellite-tagged teenage green turtle

Tagging turtles in the Turks and Caicos, on a similar project

Credit: Amdeep Sanghera

Keeping our team and the local community safe

The Montserrat Government welcomed the project team onto the island this weekend, after a comprehensive risk assessment to ensure that our visit is safe, and in strict compliance with Montserrat’s Covid measures.

Our representatives are Amdeep Sanghera, UK Overseas Territories Officer, and Dr Peter Richardson, Head of Ocean Recovery- they have been double-jabbed, and are in quarantine for the first five days when they will have a series of PCR tests.

As soon as they get the green light from the government the project will start and they’ll be working through August.

Amdeep interviewing fisherman in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands

Amdeep interviewing fishermen as part of the Community Voice Method in Turks and Caicos

Credit: Tommy Phillips

We’re really excited for the project to begin and we’ll be providing regular updates on our blog and social media channels.

Follow Amdeep on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest: @AmdeepMCS