Each year on June 8th, coastal communities and organizations across the globe celebrate the marine environment for World Oceans Day.
This year on World Oceans Day, let us remember the rare and powerful opportunity that we have here in Dominica. By supporting ocean conservation, we can do more than simply care for the planet; we can guarantee that our communities will thrive for generations to come.
Dominica residents know full well the importance of the ocean. The ocean is the backdrop of our everyday life, and we utilize its resources for our benefit. We harvest ocean animals for food and income, and we act as stewards to those who visit our shores to witness the natural beauty of the island.
Without a healthy ocean, life on Dominica would be forever changed.
But the relationship that Dominicans have to the ocean works both ways; while the ocean shapes our way of life, so too do our actions impact the health of the ocean ecosystem.
And while Dominica communities have been connected to the ocean for centuries, our relationship to the ocean has become unbalanced.
Perhaps the most evident example of this imbalance is the decline of Dominica sea turtles. Recent reports show that the sea turtle populations around Dominica are dropping at an alarming rate, falling prey to environmental and human-caused risks.
The threats to sea turtles are numerous, but chief among them is poaching. Sea turtle meat, shells, and eggs have been collected for decades, and in recent years poaching has grown so successful that the sea turtle numbers have reached a dangerously low level.
The poaching problem is so dire that of the four sea turtle species native to Dominica, only three remain. Loggerhead sea turtles once graced Dominica’s shores every nesting season, but were hunted so heavily that they have been locally extinct for over a decade.
The situation is simple; if we continue to allow nesting female turtles and their eggs to be illegally hunted, there soon won’t be any turtles left to keep the population going.
The loss of Dominica’s sea turtles is particularly heartbreaking since we are known for the natural beauty of our local environment.
But there’s more than the loss of our reputation at stake. When we consider the portion of the Dominica economy that comes from tourism, the situation becomes even more concerning.
What happens when there are no more sea turtles for tourists to search for? When visiting families travel to other Carribbean islands to find the nature that we failed to protect?
Organizations like DomSeTCO (Dominica Sea Turtle Conservation) are actively working to keep Dominica’s coastline health and prospering. They train volunteers and staff to patrol Dominica’s nesting beaches to ward off poachers – sometimes putting their own lives at risk in the process.
But one organization can’t take responsibility for an entire ecosystem. It is up to all Dominica residents to recognize how today’s actions impact tomorrow, and that if we continue on the path we are on, our way of life will be drastically different in the years to come.
World Oceans Day should then serve as a reminder that the ocean is not something to be taken for granted; conserving the ocean and its creatures is in the best interest of all of us.