Greenrock On Relocation Plan For Sea Turtles

May 10, 2017 | 22 Comments

Greenrock was surprised by the announcement to capture and relocate sea turtles from the Great Sound for May and June, it is certainly an interesting initiative, and one that raises some questions for consideration,” Greenrock Executive Director Jonathan Starling said.

Earlier this month the Government said that in “anticipation of intense boating activity in the Great Sound,” the America’s Cup Bermuda is “coordinating a temporary sea turtle relocation project,” in which “sea turtles will be netted based on methods used successfully for turtle tagging operations and temporarily relocated inside a purpose-built ocean enclosure” near the Aquarium in Flatts.

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Mr Starling said, “Greenrock was surprised by the announcement to capture and relocate sea turtles from the Great Sound for May and June. It is certainly an interesting initiative, and one that raises some questions for consideration.

“We recognise the reasoning behind the action. We are hopeful that this action will, indeed, reduce the potential for sea turtles to be injured or killed during the heightened marine activity of the America’s Cup. If it even saves one turtle that otherwise would have been killed, that’s great.

“Despite this, there are questions that need to be asked.

  • 1] Is it feasible to capture all of the turtles residing in or frequenting the Great Sound? While we believe they will be able to relocate substantial numbers of turtles, we question the feasibility of capturing all of the turtles. We hope that the boating public will still exercise caution in the Great Sound. The Great Sound is the turtle’s home, not ours.
  • 2] There are ecological considerations about keeping a concentrated number of turtles in a much smaller enclosure. These animals are going to go from the Great Sound to an enclosure being built in Harrington Sound behind the Aquarium. This will see a sudden increase of nutrients in the area which could change the ecological dynamics there. Spotted eagle rays are also known to frequent the area of the proposed enclosure – how will they be affected?
  • 3] There are welfare considerations about keeping a concentrated number of turtles in a much smaller enclosure to what they’re familiar with. There is a risk of increased disease in such a situation – particularly fibropapillomatosis, a form of highly contagious tumours. There is a risk of turtles hurting each other from bites out of aggression, and general health concerns arising from the stress of being held in captivity.
  • 4] While there is some sea grass in the area where we understand they will be located, the quantity and quality is insufficient for a large number of turtles for two months; their diet will have to be supplemented by other foods. While we trust the animal husbandry skills of the workers involved, we note that [i] the quality of food will be less than ideal compared to their natural diet; and [ii] there is the risk of the turtles associating humans with food. This may lead to problems for turtles after their release.
  • 5] What security measures are being implemented to protect the now corralled turtles from harassment by persons visiting Harrington Sound?
  • 6] Is there a Plan B should the proposed enclosure prove inadequate?
  • 7] Seagrass meadows depend on grazing to ensure their ecological dynamism. In Bermuda the green turtles are the primary grazer of this habitat, maintaining a food-web which also supports key fisheries. When seagrass is left ungrazed it loses its nutritional quality, and can even succumb to slime moulds, leading to a collapse of the seagrass meadow itself. While we’re talking only two months, there is the potential for the removal of most grazers from this habitat to have a significant impact on the ecosystem.
  • 8] It’s not clear to us how removing the existing turtles will prevent immigration of turtles outside of the Great Sound. While this potentially mitigates the consequence of removing this key grazer from the meadows, it doesn’t resolve the first problem of turtles risking injury or death during the America’s Cup.
  • 9] Fundamentally this issue raises some interesting ethical questions. While saving the lives of the Great Sound turtles is no doubt a positive, are there other risks to their welfare [and the welfare of the wider ecosystem] in both the short and long term? What right do we have to forcibly relocate a wild animal from their natural habitat and force them into an enclosure for a period of time, even if we’re doing it for their own safety, for the sake of a human sporting event?

“Greenrock welcomes any steps to protect Bermuda’s biodiversity.

“Our hope is that the turtles will be fine and any concerns of ours won’t happen. We also hope that this raises awareness about Bermuda’s sea turtles and encourages longer term policies, business practices and consumer behaviours that will lead to a sustainable tourism sector and protects our biodiversity.

“One key policy and consumer behaviour that will really provide long-term benefits to sea turtles is to reduce the amount of plastic entering the sea, such as single-use plastic bags. Plastic bags are readily mistaken as food by sea turtles, which can lead to their death. Saving a few turtles from boat collisions is welcome – but if we want to make a lasting impact on protecting our sea turtles, we need to shift away from disposable plastic.

“We would also like to remind people that if they find a sick or injured turtle, please contact the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo right away.”

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Comments (22)

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  1. serengeti says:

    So Starling’s a marine biologist as well. How brilliant he is.

    • dual says:

      He is, actually. He has a degree in Biology and worked at the Aquarium for many years.

    • Oracle says:

      This bie Starling knows everything about everything so how come he took so long to get a job?

      We should make him a highly paid government consultant!

  2. Family Man says:

    Does this guy whine about everything? At least now he has a full time whine job. No suggestions or new ideas, just a lot of whining. Immigrating turtles … give me a break.

    The ACBDA anticipated the potential for problems and approached the BAMZ with suggestions and asked for assistance. What more can they do?

    • Make a new plan Stan says:

      If you call anticipation getting this started maybe two weeks ago……yes they DEFINATELY have this well in hand.

  3. Triangle Drifter says:

    A toad looking for a lily pad to sit on. Greenrock needs to stick with whatever it is that Greenrock does on land & leave the professionals at BAMZ to deal with the green turtles.

    • PBanks says:

      But aren’t Greenrock and BEST and the like supposed to provide commentary on specific Bermuda environmental issues, land, sea or air?

      I get the feeling from some of these responses that it’s just the messenger being attacked versus the message.

  4. Longtail says:

    So what would Greenrocks plan be? After all he did point out a lot of possible consequences of the relocation. Some soltuions would be better…

    • PBanks says:

      It doesn’t look like Greenrock has any immediate alternatives and are merely highlighting some concerns which look valid. Maybe the Ministry and BAMZ reps will address them.

  5. Curious says:

    Thank you Greenrock for raising this sensitive issue at a difficult time for Bermuda, ACEA and ACBDA. The potential push back will come fast and furious.

    ACBDA and ACEA are all systems go for this event and the turtles are potential collateral damage to this extreme adrenaline sport on our waters.

    I hope these questions and concerns raised by Greenrock are addressed with integrity and transparency so we can all relax and enjoy this event knowing our turtles, who have been in our waters longer than any humans, are protected and safe.

  6. Say Whaat says:

    “What right do we have to forcibly relocate a wild animal from their natural habitat and force them into an enclosure for a period of time, even if we’re doing it for their own safety, for the sake of a human sporting event?”

    I couldn’t have said it better.

    • Just the facts says:

      Agree. Thank you.
      These turtles didn’t ask for a sporting event to be held in their livingroom. They didn’t ask to be caged for 2 months. While I appreciate the attempt to keep them safe, how do we know we aren’t doing more damage? Should we have thought about this sooner?

    • Make a new plan Stan says:

      Thank you for saying that……I’m surprised by some of the comments…….even though people use pen names you do become acquainted with their general mind set and I expected more concern for the turtles and less “snark”.

  7. Cow Polly says:

    Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t. BAMZ know our sea turtles better than any armchair ecologist, so my faith is with them.

    AC Bermuda are being pro-active with this approach and I applaud them for being so considerate of our natural wildlife. Well done!

    • sage says:

      Being proactive would have been moving them before practice and testing (up to 95kph) started months ago and may have prevented the strikes that have occurred already. Is that chain link fencing BAMZ is using to build the concentration camp? Seems like a hurried afterthought.

    • Even Hand says:

      Actually BAMZ was not thrilled about it either. They have the same concerns… however, the powers that be would have gone forward with or without them. BAMZ decided it would be better with them than without, and I agree. I also agree with Mr. Starlings concerns, which have been echoed by most of the professionals in the field.

  8. OBA IS MUG TO TURTLES says:

    I only read up to the fourth point when I had enough. How are you gonna take a turtle from it house to save it life then put it in an environment that’s gonna lead to disease that equals tumours & it’s a possibility they’ll hurt each other from aggression? & then their natural habitat gonna change so they won’t even like it when they go back & on top of that ya gonna spend who’s money to build this temporary captivity?! The turtles are better off in the sound!! Stop doing everything to appease these sailboats! Your wasting bermudas time and money! Save the turtles!!

  9. ConcernedBermudian says:

    This guy Starling has zero experience with the ocean. All he does is complain. Did he not protest the Queen when she was here…just because he likes to be negative. Starling, you should contact the Aquarium and ask the experts before you start giving out your opinion based on no experience.

    • Make a new plan Stan says:

      Try to look past the person and read the message. Too many times perfectly good commentary is pushed aside because of who the messenger is…….pretend it’s Ewart Brown that wants to move the turtles……now does it sound like a good idea?

    • PBanks says:

      You’re not concerned at all, you’re just shooting the messenger.

  10. Pooh Bear says:

    BAMZ are actually doing something about it…to mitigate the risk of unnecessary injury or death of the turtle population. One would’ve thought Greenrock would be better off working with BAMZ rather than offering up their high-handed commentary from the ‘peanut gallery’.

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