BEST: ‘Ethical Dilemmas’ With Turtle Relocation

May 12, 2017

[Updated] “The planned temporary relocating of turtles — certainly with the turtles’ interest at heart — from the America’s Cup main racecourse, poses a number of environmental and ethical dilemmas,” BEST said today.

It was previously announced 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.

A statement from the environmental group said, “In Bermuda, as elsewhere, human intervention with the environment has been done sometimes for the best of reasons but with the worst of outcomes.

“As examples, the introduction of cane toads, anolis lizards, cannibal snails, kiskadees, casuarinas, Chinese fan palms, to name a few, have shown that Bermuda’s humans still have much to learn about the interconnectedness of the Island’s life-forms and, indeed, life on our planet Earth.

BEST Bermuda TC May 12 2017

“The planned temporary relocating of turtles — certainly with the turtles’ interest at heart — from the America’s Cup main racecourse, poses a number of environmental and ethical dilemmas. There are difficult choices:

  • Do nothing and risk danger to turtles in the area [more turtles in the area = more risk]. If a turtle is struck, risk adverse publicity locally and internationally; lose credibility as environmental stewards.
  • Do something and risk doing too much or too little or the wrong thing; risk adverse effects on turtle health due to stresses from being moved, penned, mal-fed and/or injured.

“Beyond these immediate choices there are more global, principled issues; briefly:

“1. Humans often act like all Bermuda’s land and sea areas belong to us and only us.

“It seems to be a facet of human development, that we have regarded the environment as ours, to use and exploit for our benefit, without consideration of the profound effects of our individual actions — world-wide, multiplied several billion times.

“If only we could harness the power in the small steps taken by each of us toward collective behavior change, and in our own very important role and responsibility in the balance of ecosystems.

“2. If AC or other ongoing inshore sail or motor racing activity is to take place beyond this year, the turtles will have to be moved permanently, or sacrificed.

“Such racing and on-water activities have been taking place and multiplying for decades. However, it has taken the ‘intense’ America’s Cup activity to make us look at wildlife mitigation. Piecemeal actions and legislations have happened in the past, such as the fish pot ban, protection of cedars, fishing restrictions.

“What is needed is a holistic land, air and marine environmental plan. The AC is huge, bringing with it a locally yet-to-be-experienced concentration of human and boating activity.

“Our lack of facilities, legislation and the will to do the right thing with managing marine debris, pump out stations, fueling stations, etc., show that we are behind the 8-ball compared to other, often less-affluent countries. Any lessons learned — and we hope there will be many — can be put into practice in our everyday lives.

“We cannot move sea turtles or any other feral marine life permanently. It is not our right to do so, even if we had the ability. We must implement forward planning, wide consultations, and sustainable management and legislative practices such that decisions are not made ad hoc or by event. Then we must have the strength to enforce and stand by our believed and written best practices. The demise in the end may just be our own if we don’t.

“3. Bermuda must visit and revisit the issue of Carrying Capacity: How many humans can sustainably exist on this island? Bermuda, and Earth, are finite. Continuous growth is simply not sustainable. What is the carrying capacity for sea turtles [and perhaps other marine life] on sea grass beds that have been receding over the years? We do not know what our contribution to has been to the demise of sea grass but we should not assume we have had no impact as a species. Are we depleting fish stocks and threatening the very valuable, future food supply? It is in our hands to manage this sustainably.

“4. How can we ultimately determine and decide the balance between cars vs. bikes [motor/pedal], houses/hotels vs. parklands, race-sailing machines vs. turtles, speed vs. safety, and so on…

“If we do not make the appropriate choices now, individually and collectively, through lifestyle choices and legislative action, Mother Earth will decide in the end, and likely shake us off, repair herself and move on into the future without us.”

Update May 15, 3.13pm: BEST said they wish to “go on the record as affirming support for the Bermuda Government’s decision to temporarily relocate turtles from the areas with increased levels of boating traffic associated with the America’s Cup, and to corral them in an enclosure near the Aquarium.

“The scheme planned for this preventative exercise has the advantage of being the best precautionary plan that could be devised, given the issues of locating, capturing, transporting, holding, feeding and monitoring the captives, followed by that list in reverse to repatriate the turtles to the Great Sound. We are reassured that the most knowledgable marine biological expertise available has been engaged, which will no doubt lead to the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

“Nonetheless, we would be neglecting our mandate if we did not point out that relocating the turtles is not a long term solution. Unless we plan to eliminate turtles and other marine life forever from zones we humans increasingly claim for our recreation or sport — an unacceptable outcome — we will need to give systematic attention to the competing entitlement to shared environmental space.

“Meanwhile, we wish the relocation teams maximum success in this exercise.”

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Comments (8)

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  1. Northrock says:

    Jesus H. Christ…do you people have nothing better to do than criticise everything anyone does !!???

    I have known Stuart for years and I appreciate the hell out of BEST but for crying out loud…between BEST and that guy over at Greenrock …give me a frigging break..!

  2. Know it All says:

    Ok then…Is the suggestion to cancel America’s Cup? What are BEST (and Starling) wanting to accomplish? What is the grand master plan that they are proposing?

  3. Just the facts says:

    Shouldn’t this have all been thought about before now? Haven’t some of the boats been racing through their natural habitat for upwards of 2 years now? Have a few turtles already been slaughtered and so NOW we are showing concern? Is that what is going on?

    What has been done in other AC venues and what were the outcomes? Statistics? Results? Long-term effects on marine life? This race has gone on 34 times before – give us some history on damage / successes with marine life.

  4. puzzled says:

    Where do these turtles come from.
    If there are so many are hey local or transients.
    Where are their nesting areas.
    are they protected?

    More turtles have been killed in the past 10 years appearances in Courts for many marine offences; literally.

    Enjoy the AC.

    Hurricane season ends in November.

    • J Starling says:

      Hi Puzzled,

      Although historically turtles did nest in Bermuda, until just recently there had been no records of turtles nesting here for over a century. Our ancestors wiped out the large, sexually mature turtles that would have been our resident nesting ones.

      Instead, Bermuda serves as a sort of primary, middle and senior school for turtles born in the Caribbean and Latin America (the Sargasso Sea serves as a kindergarten/preschool). They feed her on our seagrass meadows and once they reach a certain size they head south to the Caribbean and eventually, once reaching sexual maturity, head back to their nesting beaches (which I think are mostly in Central America).

      A year or so ago we marked the first nesting of a turtle in over a century (that we know of), which is a pretty big deal.

      Bermuda actually passed one of the first ever conservation laws in the world, I think around 1620, to protect our turtles, due to the heavy exploitation of them in the early years of our settlement. Unfortunately we didn’t know their life history too much at the time – it protected the small turtles but not the sexually mature ones, which were our resident nesting turtles. So we wiped out the ‘locals’ but we are still an important site for turtles for the western Atlantic.

      I agree that it would be great to have more enforcement of our marine laws. Unfortunately, the resources don’t seem to be allocated to it so far. Perhaps this is something that can change with enough pressure?

  5. Hubert Watlington says:

    Please everyone slow down in your boats it will help and Bermuda is so lovely at a slow pace.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, just please slow down in your boats which will give the turtles a chance to dive before your arrival! I think that is all anyone is asking. We need to co-exist with nature in Bermuda! Our natural resources are the only resources we have.

  6. Barnacle says:

    BEST and CURB are birds of a feather….