Bravo Bahamas!

A hawksbill sea turtle cruising a Caribbean reef (c) Matt Vinciguerra

At the close of September I caught wind of a wonderful development for sea turtle conservation that went into effect at the beginning of the month. Starting September 1st all sea turtles are protected from hunting in Bahamian waters. Previously only hawksbill turtles enjoyed this type of protection from the Bahamian government but thanks to the efforts of Oceana‘s campaigns and a very intriguing report on recreational diver’s values, things have changed for the better.

I was quite excited to Lisa White’s thesis report posted online. I participated in the online Diver survey back in 2007. It’s always nice to see that your participation in something was worthwhile. The survey was broken down into dive habits and interests including a rank order list for types of marine wildlife people were interested in seeing. I admit, I was a bit personally dismayed when I read the line: “Marine plants were the least desired type of marine life, with 242 seventh-place votes” (p. 13). Apparently I am the only diver who could stare at turtle grass and Halophila decipiens for hours.

Legal protections for marine wildlife are always a sticky issue. What is valid in one country often does not apply in the next and long distance travelers – like sea turtles and other pelagic swimmers – move within a patchwork quilt of protection, rather more like lace than a true superhero’s cape of security. And even within our own borders the status of a species – threatened, endangered, or simply listed as ‘data deficient’ – does not always help us to understand their situation and conserve their populations.

I hope to see other Caribbean countries follow suit with protections for marine wildlife like these newly adopted provisions. Overall, a good victory for the Oceana team and for turtles in the Caribbean.