Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in
St. Kitts is working with local fishermen to preserve
the hawksbill sea turtle found in the waters around
the Caribbean island.
Approximately 70 percent of Caribbean nations have banned fishing for sea turtles because of their classification as an endangered species. St. Kitts and Nevis still allow fishing for sea turtles but have implemented regulations, such as tight restrictions during the fishing season.
Dr. Kimberly Stewart, an assistant professor at the veterinary school, has teamed up with Theophilus Taylor, president of the Sandy Point Fishermen's Cooperative, to encourage local fishermen to reduce the number of sea turtles they catch and sell.
Late last year, Dr. Stewart and members of the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network, which she oversees, taught Taylor (pictured) how to tag the turtles for monitoring. "I have been working with Mr. Taylor and other fishermen for a few years emphasizing sustainable use, alternative livelihoods, and conservation," Dr. Stewart said. "I believe with his help we can accomplish many things with our programs."
Dr. Stewart and Taylor also teach at local schools about the need for sea turtle conservation. Taylor explains why the turtles are important to St. Kitts and encourages the children to observe turtle-friendly recreational activities and to avoid harming nesting and foraging turtles as well as incubating nests.
Recognizing the cultural and financial importance of harvesting sea turtles, several island institutions and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center together provide income for fishermen participating in capturing, tagging, and releasing the turtles. In exchange, they promise not to kill or render captured turtles, ensuring the animals will be around for future generations to enjoy.