Friday, February 08, 2013
Celebrating Safer Reefs for Bonaire’s Sea Turtles
Nearly a year ago, The Bonaire Insider informed its readers about a new initiative by Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire to remove fishing line and other potential turtle entanglements from the coastal waters around Bonaire. It’s time to report on the good this action has done.
At the recent 25th Annual Bonaire International & Local Fishing Tournament, Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) was delighted to participate and it was then that the success of STCB’s Fishing Line Project was celebrated.
It was during the tournament that the unveiling of a striking 4-meter high artwork was unveiled--in the shape of an obelisk, constructed by volunteers, and containing the waste fishing lines collected during 2012. The obelisk featured alongside an exhibition which explained the dangers of waste fishing gear to our sea turtles and ways to fish that are safer for Bonaire’s endangered sea turtle population.
STCB is working in co-operation with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Billfish Foundation to encourage the use of circle hooks when fishing in Bonaire’s waters. Circle hooks help prevent sea turtles from becoming accidentally hooked and research has shown that their use does not decrease the amount of fish caught. Circle hooks also inflict less damage to the fish thus increasing their market value. If a sea turtle does happen to become hooked, the circle hook will probably hook in the jaw rather than be swallowed so the turtle suffers less harm and will probably recover. During the tournament fishermen were given free samples of circle hooks to try out and STCB staff showed how to bait a fish using the circle hooks for best effect.
The obelisk is a real monument to the hard work that has been carried out by the many dedicated volunteers to this project. After the fishing tournament, the obelisk was moved to Jong Bonaire, with the help of Jong Bonaire staff, and in the future STCB will install the exhibition at different venues including Bonaire’s schools.
Although the Fishing Line Project has made a huge impact by removing lines from the reefs that can trap and kill a sea turtle there is still more work to be done. STCB will continue the Bonaire Fishing Line Project into 2013 and will assist interested marine turtle conservation groups in the Dutch Caribbean to adapt the project for their islands. This is important, as sea turtles are migratory animals, so making the shores and reefs safe throughout the whole region is the only way to fully protect these beautiful creatures. (Source: STCB)