Turtle swimming UKOT

Turtle conservation work in the UK Overseas Territories receives welcome boost

Date posted: 22 June 2020

Our work in the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) will receive a welcome boost following two significant grants from the UK Government’s Darwin Plus initiative. The two projects will work directly with the Governments of the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat, as well as local partner organisations and communities to support the recovery, monitoring and management of turtle populations.

Green Turtle
© Peter Richardson

These projects will help us understand the status of turtle populations in these UK Overseas Territories, and how people are dependent upon them. In the face of climate change, habitat destruction and overfishing, it’s vital we develop resilience in these island’s marine ecosystems for the turtles and for the people that also depend on them for the economy and well-being.

Amdeep Sanghera,
UKOT Conservation Officer

The UKOTs are incredibly rich in wildlife and complex ecosystems, possessing over 94% of UK’s unique biodiversity. The UK Government’s Darwin Plus initiative provides vital funding to support projects which aim to protect the natural environment of the UKOT’s.

Amdeep Sanghera, UKOT Conservation Officer, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have received crucial Darwin Plus funding for two new projects in the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat. These projects will help us understand the status of turtle populations in these UK Overseas Territories, and how people are dependent upon them. In the face of climate change, habitat destruction and overfishing, it’s vital we develop resilience in these island’s marine ecosystems for the turtles and for the people that also depend on them for the economy and well-being. These grants will allow our partnerships to fully engage with local communities in developing strategies to safeguard sea turtles and their habitats in these two amazing places.”

In the British Virgin Islands (BVI), we will lead on a project alongside local organisation, the Association of Reef Keepers (ARK). The initiative will support the recovery of the Islands’ turtle populations and key habitats including reefs and seagrass meadows. This interdisciplinary project also involves partnerships with the BVI Government along with the University of Exeter.

This three-year project will lead to a better understanding of the status of turtles using BVI habitats, create a better local understanding of turtle conservation and, using our tried and tested Community Voice Method (CVM) of engagement, will work with BVI communities to develop new legislation recommendations and a conservation action plan to safeguard BVI’s turtle populations for future generations.

Community Voice Method - Amdeep and Jerry

The Montserrat project is led by the University of Exeter and the Government of Montserrat, and we’ll will play a key supporting role. The project will build the capacity of local Montserratians to monitor and manage local turtle populations through an improved scientific evidence base. We will also use CVM for the Montserrat project to engage the island’s community in the development and implementation of a Marine Turtle Species Action Plan for Montserrat.

Shannon Gore, ARK’s Managing Director, said: “ARK is thrilled about receiving this grant and to be working closely with MCS and the BVI Government. With the spread of the invasive seagrass Halophila stipulacea, impacts resulting from the 2017 hurricanes, and more recently, Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease, the grant will help ensure the sustainability of our sea turtle populations as well as their habitats.”

Professor Brendan Godley from the University of Exeter said: “I am delighted to have been asked to help on this project. The British Virgin Islands have had a hard time, with massive impacts of Hurricane Irma and now the tourism slowdown from the COVID-19 pandemic. As with many of the UK Overseas Territories, BVI is a place with amazing natural assets. Sea turtles are fantastic flagship species for conservation of BVI’s wonderful beaches, mangroves, seagrasses and reefs.”

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