Thanks to the help of many volunteers and supporters Sea Turtle Conservation Curacao (STCC) had an amazing year. That is why I’d like to start with a huge thanks to everybody that contributed to this productive year. I am extremely grateful to all the volunteers and supporters who helped STCC in numerous ways with their activities that aim to protect sea turtles and their habitat.
STCC has been active since 2014, but only became an official NGO in 2017. So 2018 is the first full calendar year as on NGO. The main activities of STCC fall into 3 categories: research, conservation and education. These are the three pillars that we think are essential to guarantee effective protection of sea turtles and their habitat. It all starts with the research, because we need to learn how sea turtles are really doing on our island and if they need our protection to begin with. In the research part we focus on collecting data to determine the current status of our sea turtle populations and to get insights into population trends. This includes assessing main pressures and threats.
In the beginning of 2018 we found many of the sea turtles had tumor growth, which is an external symptom of fibropapilomatosis. The seemingly high prevalence of turtles with tumors is a huge concern since sea turtles are among the most important indicators of health of marine and coastal ecosystems.
STCC has worked hard to engage researchers, other NGO’s and politicians to extend the research into this troublesome finding. From this a partnership with Artemis was formed and Terry Work, an internationally acknowledged wildlife disease specialist, offered his assistance. Unfortunately our local government showed to be less decisive
When direct threats to sea turtles are witnessed STCC acts to counteract and lower the threats. These activities fall into the category of conservation. Entangled and hooked turtles are helped by removing the hooks and lines. This has been a time-consuming effort, since there were no less then …. hooking and entanglement incidents.
Not all of the incidents could be resolved on the spot and some of the turtles were placed under the care of veterinary Odette Doest. Each sea turtle that has to be placed under veterinary care is a significant challenge for STCC, since the costs involved are high and STCC is dependent on donations.
The financial support we have been receiving has barely been sufficient to keep our operation going and with the large number of hookings this is an immediate threat to the continued existence of STCC. Besides responding to incident reports STCC also works hard to prevent incidents by actively cleaning foraging and nesting habitat, with the goal to reduce the threats of entanglement and plastic ingestion. STCC actively promotes beach clean ups, under water clean ups and ghostnet removals. Ghostnets are nets that were left by the fishermen but still trap wildlife below the water surface without the harvesting of the caught animals. These nets do a lot of damage to the underwater life.
A lot of time is also spent on creating awareness and engaging different types of people in our activities. Real impact can only be made when many people are involved. In this we target non-nature minded people as well, because that is where the biggest wins are possible for conservation.
But we also shared knowledge with the regional and international sea turtle conservationists and researchers, through participation in the International Sea Turtle Symposium in Japan, were STCC presented 2 workshops and the participation in the WIDECAST annual meeting in Trinidad.
At the beginning of 2018 STCC released the music video “Can You See” to create extra awareness. STCC also participated in ‘Present Your Startup’ and from that undertaking we were able to get quite some international exposure.
STCC won the Haarlem2Harlem pitch competition in New York. After that the social enterprise Green Phenix was started, to transform the plastic pollution problem into an opportunity and to create additional funding for STCC, to make STCC financially more sustainable. With Green Phenix STCC also recieved extra exposure, because Green Phenix was one of the finalists in the Carribean version as well as the global version of Present Your Startup, Green Phenix also was nominated for 3 awards in the Curacao innovation awards. 2018 was a good year with lots of activities. Our visibility increased, the group of volunteers expanded and our knowledge base is growing. Even though the financial situation of STCC is worrisome, due to the amazing support from the community we were able to accomplish quite a lot. This report gives an overview of the activities that we undertook in 2018 and ends with an overview for the activities and goals planned for 2019.
We are extremely grateful for all the support from volunteers and sponsors and we are hoping that we can keep counting on your support in the future.