Consider the Leatherback
Guest Commentary By Sharon Feinstein
Note from Captain Paul Watson: Back in 2001, the Sea Shepherd ship Ocean Warrior docked in Tobago where our crew spent the summer patrolling the beaches to protect Leatherback turtles from poachers. Protecting turtles in Tobago is as easy as being a tourist. Anyone can spend a couple of weeks walking the beaches there to discourage the poachers. I can’t think of a more pleasant form of activism combining one’s vacation with doing something really worthwhile. Sand, sun, surf, and service to the oceans and a Caribbean holiday to boot. Please contact Sharon Feinstein for information on how you can be of service to the endangered Leatherback turtle.
540 kilo leatherback turtles swim thousands of miles back to the beaches where they were born in Tobago, only to be brutally slaughtered. Their flippers are chopped off with machetes for the meager amount of wild meat they provide. Alone and trembling, these magnificent, vulnerable creatures are left in agony to bleed to death.
The more efficient slayers wait amongst the trees, lift the turtles into boats, and slaughter them in secret before dumping the carcasses at sea.
Each turtle lays 80 to 120 eggs around five times a season, but blinding lights around the beaches are another death trap for these endangered animals. The tiny hatchlings – instead of following the moon to the sea - are confused by the beams of artificial light and end up dead in gutters, drains or against hotel walls. As well, fishermen lay out their nets on the sand instead of reeling them up, and hatchlings are caught up in the ropes and suffocate to death.
This is the tragic plight of an endangered species, in serious decline and hurtling towards extinction. Leatherback turtles are protected by various international treaties and agreements as well as national law, but poachers roam free on certain beaches in Tobago, and openly defy these laws.
I am working with a vet and scientist in England and local environmentalists in Tobago to educate youth groups, raise awareness, patrol the beaches, and pressure airlines and government officials to stop this terrible practice.
Please go to my website and see what you can do to help.