Concerns raised over erosion at Shell Beach

Erosion at Shell Beach in the North West District has led to a reduction in the amount of coconut trees there, Project Coordinator of the Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society (GMTCS) said last week.

She was speaking at a presentation on Thursday last on the GMTCS’s ongoing efforts to monitor and conserve the remaining species of marine turtles which nest at Shell Beach as well as give a progress report on the GMTCS’s community development projects in the area.

The presentation was held at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston under the theme ’Sea Turtles, Sea Shells and Sustainability’ and was done by the organization’s project coordinators Romeo De Freitas, Arjoon and Michelle Kalamadeen.

Arjoon noted that Northwest Organics, a local brand for organic products made in Region One, has greatly assisted the livelihood of persons who reside in the North West area. She said that there are approximately 16 Amerindian communities in the Shell Beach area and approximately 250 persons live on the beach. She noted that the beach has been subjected to erosion and this resulted in a decrease in the number of coconut trees on the beach. She said only last week a school on the beach had to be relocated as a result of the erosion.

Arjoon said  that a number of communities in the North West area have been paying attention to producing food  and other items which had been overlooked over the years or not developed due to the unavailability of funding.

She said that Region One has been designated the official organic region of Guyana and Northwest Organics has been marketing the products. The products include coconut oil, cocoa sticks, cassava bread and wild honey. These products have been marketed overseas and can be found on the shelves of several supermarkets in the city.

In his presentation on sea turtle monitoring, De Freitas noted that historically sea turtles have been hunted for their meat and eggs. But this practice has been decreasing over the years as a result of education programmes. He said that four of the world’s endangered marine turtles visit Guyana’s proposed protected area at Shell Beach, between March and August. The species are the Leatherback, Green, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley. He noted that the Olive Ridley has been decreasing over the years while monitoring shows that the Leatherback population has recovered. However, it was pointed that the marine turtle population has been decreasing as a result of a number of factors which include climate change, accidental capture in fishing nets and being hunted for their meat and eggs.

De Freitas noted that the monitoring programme has had some achievements which include the designation of the GDF Coastguard as enforcers of security measures to protect the turtles as well as the education of fisher folks and residents in general about the need to protect the turtles. He recommended that more persons should be employed as volunteers to assist in the monitoring programme and persons need to pay more interest in the general conservation of the endangered species.

Kalamadeen in her presentation noted that the environmental education occurs each year for children in Region One. Communities such as Santa Rosa and Mabaruma participate in educational programmes on sea turtle ecology and several teachers from schools in the area have been trained to convey conservation lessons to pupils in the classrooms. She said in 2006, a study showed that 50% of the sea turtle population had been caught in fishing nets. As a result, a series of workshops have been held with fishermen to better educate them on sea turtle conservation. These workshops have been held at Santa Rosa, Moruca, Kumaka, the Meadowbank wharf in Georgetown and at other fishing ports on the coastland.

She also noted that efforts are being made to delineate the Shell Beach area as a protected area and in the process consideration must be given to the persons who reside within the area.

Member of the GMTCS Board, Major General (ret’d) Joseph Singh in  closing remarks said that conservation of the endangered sea turtles needs to be recognized but factors such as erosion have been threatening their population.

Meanwhile, the GMTCS acknowledged a number of organizations and business entities that have been contributing to its cause, including Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Guyana Defence Force and Guyoil.

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