Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Save Our Turtles

This week's entry will be shorter than usual, as I'm having too good a time on a friend's boat in Florida; in fact, while I do hope to find time to write down my thoughts from time to time, the summer months may be for "research" rather than writing. ;-)

As we were cruising off Fort Lauderdale, my friend pointed out to me how there is a lot less sea weed floating around on top of the water than there was 10-15 years ago; he blames it on the Japanese, who are, so he says, harvesting it for "medicinal" purposes. There you go, bush medicine is a truly worldwide phenomenon. Of course, no Floridian or Bahamian is after the sea weed per se, rather, we hope to find fish underneath the sea weed. There are also a lot less fish these days than there were 10, 20, 40, 50, 100, or 500 years ago. My friend blames the Japanese.

I blame humankind, i. e. part of the blame probably goes to the Japanese. Part of the blame, however, also goes to the Floridians. And part of the blame goes to us Bahamians, too. Our fisheries industries, large or small, have never learned to be sustainable. Our leisure fishermen and women do not fish sustainably. Thus, our waters' supply of conch, crawfish, grouper, or turtle, just to name a few, is diminishing.

One of the problems is that we have no pragmatic quota system on how much we can catch, another that closed seasons are not enforced thoroughly enough, another that size limits are rarely enforced. Therefore, I have seen grouper being sold at the Montagu ramp during the closed season for grouper, I have seen people unloading their catch in marinas, and what I thought looked like shrimp were apparently baby lobster, etc.

However, the biggest disgrace is that we as a nation still allow the harvesting of our sea turtles. All four species of sea turtles that can be found in our waters are either threatened or endangered, and the problem is we do not seem to care. Last week, the Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group hosted a candlelight vigil on Rawson Square as well as a town meeting at COB. 65 people attended the first event, about 40 the second, which is a shame because the organisers flew in Professor Alan Bolten from the University of Florida, one of the world's leading experts on sea turtles, probably *the* leading expert on sea turtles in the Bahamas. We learned a lot that night.

Parliament was in session, and many a politician walked past the candlelight vigil, but the only two MPs who came and spoke to the people about their ideas were two opposition MPs. Hubert, when one of the members of the Bahamas Sea Turtle Conservation Group tried to hand him an information leaflet, walked past and pretended she did not even exist. Mr. Prime Minister, may I remind you that you are an employee of the people of this nation, and when they have concerns, it is your job to listen!? I suspect he was busy dialling Rudy's on Cowpen Road, booking a table for a meal of turtle pie.

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