Turtles in the UK Overseas Territories in the Caribbean (TCOT)

Funded by UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Foreign Commonwealth Office Environment Fund for the Overseas Territories

TCOT was commissioned by the UK government in six UK Overseas Territories (OTs) in the Caribbean, and executed by the Marine Turtle Research Group at the University of Exeter and the Marine Conservation Society, UK. The goal of the project was to assess the status of marine turtle populations, levels of marine turtle harvest and bycatch, genetic composition of stocks, and the status of current marine turtle research, conservation and management efforts. The project stemmed from UK government commitments made at the Caribbean Hawksbill Range States Dialogue hosted by the Conventional on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Thus, data were collected to ‘‘assist the UK, the OTs and other countries in the region to support, develop and manage co-ordinated regional conservation programmes for hawksbills and other marine turtle species, and allow relevant policy makers to make informed decisions regarding future trade in marine turtles or products derived from them’’. One outcome of the project is an analysis of international agreements for conservation in the region (Richardson et al 2006).

TCOT included a socio-economic survey designed to measure turtle use and value to multiple stakeholders. The purposes of the survey were: to fill in the gaps in information on turtle fishing and use and to capture valuable local knowledge/opinions on marine turtle issues, such as population health and size, historical trends in fishing and turtle population numbers, and management options. Results from the survey are currently being incorporated into a number of publications, including an evaluation of the potential for co-management of sea turtle fisheries in several of the OTs.

TCOT also provided the opportunity to consider the incentives and motives for fishers to cooperate with researchers, and the ethical issues associated with 'capturing' and 'using' local knowledge for policy reform (Silver and Campbell 2005).