ExeterMarine photo of turtles in Montserrat's waters.

Darwin-Funded Marine Turtle Project for Montserrat Underway

University of Exeter researchers are two weeks into an expedition funded by the Darwin Initiative to create a Marine Turtle Action Plan for Montserrat. The project, led by the University of Exeter and the Government of Montserrat, will work with local communities to help manage marine turtle populations.

The island hosts nesting populations of endangered green and critically endangered hawksbill turtles. Little is known about the size of the populations nesting here.

Over the next three years, the scientists will gather biological data, including nesting beach surveys and satellite tracking of the breeding female turtles, to develop a local turtle conservation action plan.

The University of Exeter team of Dr. Sam Weber and Jack Wiggins have already begun carrying out turtle research alongside the Government of Montserrat team led by Alwyn Ponteen of the Fisheries Department within the Ministry of Agriculture. They are checking for tracks by day and then deploying flipper, PIT and satellite tags by night, ExeterMarine noted on their Facebook page.

Check out what the turtles are doing here: https://my.wildlifecomputers.com/data/map/?id=61196a7b2c72b03780432020
Also on the four-person team are two members of the Marine Conservation Society, Amdeep Sanghera, UK Overseas Territories Officer, and Dr. Peter Richardson, Head of Ocean Recovery.

“The relationship between local communities and marine turtles is poorly understood outside of the island, so we’ll be using our tried-and-tested Community Voice Method to record the thoughts, opinion, values and knowledge of local people to factor into the plan,” MCS said in a blog post.

Team members stop by the Governor’s Office to speak with Governor Andrew Pearce. (Exeter Marine Photo)

All team members have been doing outreach work with local community groups. They have also met with Governor Andrew Pearce, the Montserrat Volcano Observatory officials and specialists across several sectors.

University of Exeter said “we look forward to continuing to engage the community on their attitudes towards turtles and their conservation.”

The project is being funded through the Darwin Plus Initiative to the tune of £268,741.00 or about XCD$1 million over the coming three years. Applications are now open for the new cycle of the Darwin funding programme.

Darwin Initiative – Defra, UK Darwin Initiative: The Darwin Initiative – Apply

Darwin Plus – Darwin Plus – Apply (darwininitiative.org.uk)

Freedom, heartbreak and the ancient forces of Montserrat | Latest News | Marine Conservation Society (mcsuk.org)