Captains log: Jan 18th 2022
Location: Cape Verde, Sao Vicente, Mindelo
During our voyage, we were contacted and invited by a dive centre, DIVE TRIBE Mindelo, located within the Archipel Cape Verde, on the island Sao Vicente. The dive centre had a unique story to tell, and we got interested to see & learn more about it and maybe even offer them a helping hand if we could.
The dive centre Dive Tribe, run by owner Anica, came across the fact that, locally, many turtles were caught to be eaten, mainly by the local population. The Cape Verde islands have rich nesting grounds for green turtles and leatherback turtles.
Eating turtles is nothing ‘new’. Sailors and fishermen have been relying on turtles as food for ages. However, seeing the worldwide decrease of turtle populations (for many reasons), finding ways to keep turtles alive is becoming more important, otherwise they will be extinct soon.
Now, if we start to shout off the rooftops that these local fishermen can not catch/eat turtles anymore, it might NOT be the right approach to this project. How would they replace their food balance or even financial shortfalls?
Dive Tribe came up with a larger plan and worked out a WIN-WIN situation for all parties involved! First, they started to involve and train the local fishermen in organizing local snorkeling trips to see the abundant turtles around their village of San Pedro. This created involvement and jobs, as the boats of the local fishermen were needed to transport the tourists.
The next step was to make a deal with the local town about the financial part of organizing snorkelling tours. A consensus was found! They would use 50% of the money paid for the snorkelling tours to set up and support a local school, so the children of the fishermen could get an education. As most families in the village have children, they would all be involved in the benefits of this project.
This initiative is a leading example of how conservation should be worked out!
As we were invited to participate in one of the snorkelling trips and visit the local village of San Pedro, I must admit I was blown away by the project and the way it is run! While visiting Cape Verde, Sao Vicente, the snorkelling trips are a must-do thing.
The local fishermen are trained properly and deal with the visitors with the utmost respect, giving excellent briefings on what to do and what not to do while snorkelling with the turtles. Snorkelling with 10+ large, curious turtles at the time can be a bit overwhelming for visitors! The turtles get ‘used’ to being visited and are not afraid of humans. As soon as they hear the outboard of the small fishermen’s boat arriving, they pop up to the surface to welcome the visitors, circling around them, and this goes on for about 30-45min. After that, the turtles start losing interest and begin returning to their home back on the white sandy ocean bottom, their home.
The turtle project was set up a few years ago, and more and more turtles keep on showing up. Even during the COVID times and with the lack of tourists, the fishermen would get out, just themselves and kept giving the turtles the attention they had started to provide them with all this time. When the tourists started to return, the turtles came out the same way they did before COVID times, so the success of visiting them in large numbers has continued!
All of us onboard Blowing Bubbles are so proud to have been an witness to this project and be able to give our support to Dive Tribe, San Pedro, the fishermen, and ultimately the turtles!
One turtle alive is so much more valuable than one dead turtle!
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