Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sea Turtles in French Polynesia: research and conservation management needs support

As many conservationists know, sea turtles are considered threatened and in many cases listed as endangered with possible extinction by many international agencies. But still, sea turtles are caught specifically for their shells and meat or as accidental bycatch. And the nesting areas for many species are being encroached upon by development. Even when left alone, the odds of turtle hatchlings reaching maturity is very low, from the moment they crawl out of their sandy shoreline nest to reaching full adulthood. That's just nature's way.

From my friend, Charlotte Vick, who works with Dr. Sylvia Earle's SEAlliance organization, I received the following email below regarding the fate of sea turtles and the necessary research that is needed to provide the basis of a solid conservation and management program in French Polynesia:

Dear Colleagues and Partners:

I am contacting you today, to try and see how you may help us in getting the government authorizations we have been requesting for years to enable us to continue our education and research programs on sea turtles in French Polynesia. We have addressed some of these requests many years ago now; the last one was made just after our international symposium on sea turtles last November. But now we have a new government and we think that the new minister in charge of the Environment - Jack Bryant- may be sensible to your support letters.

Our requests are:

"In order to continue and develop its research programs on sea turtles in French Polynesia, the non for profit foundation Te Mana O Te Moana is asking for specific authorizations regarding Green Sea Turtles [Chelonia mydas] and Hawksbill Sea Turtles [Eretmochelys imbricata] in order to:

1. Be able to collect skin samples for genetic surveys on Pacific population knowledge and management

2. Be able to tag turtles with flipper tags for better identification

3. Be able to fix satellite tags on sea turtle shell for a better understanding of their movements

4. Be able to transfer to the Moorea turtle clinic some hatchlings found trapped and in very bad conditions in their nests

5. Condition and display the skeleton of each marine turtle species for education purposes

6. Be able, only in a case of critical endanger situation, to move some nests to safer locations

Not only is the lack of authorizations is blocking research progress, but it is also requiring us to apply to international or national funding groups, being aware that the Polynesian government has no budget for sea turtle research.

We hope that you will understand our request and please if you can, send us by mail your support letter, addressed Mr. Jacky Bryant in 10 days.

Best regards, Dr. Cecile Gaspar

Dr. Gaspar did not provide an address to mail to Jack Bryant, so here is an address I dug up, or you can send an email or a letter attached to an email directly to Dr. Gaspar (her address is at the bottom of the page):

Mr. Jack Bryant

Minister of the Envitronment, Energy and Mones

c/o Office of the Territorial Government
BP 2551


Dr. Cécile Gaspar, Présidente
Docteur vétérinaire, PhD, MBA

PB 1374 Papetoai

98729 MOOREA

French Polynesia

tel (689) 70.60.66

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