31/01/2019

Warmest greetings from Ghana, West Africa!

Bahari Karuna is about "Ocean Compassion" dealing with sea turtle and shark conservation in the Western Region of Ghana, working with communities in order to benefit them and the oceans while securing the survival of species for future generations. Neil Davis, an Archelonosaurus (late Cretaceous) & WILDSEAS Projects Director sent us this short report!

Things are normally winding down at this time of year over here but my recent trip to Bahari Karuna turtle project was anything but quiet! More on that later but first things first, it is actually thanks to ARCHELON that WILDSEAS project, Bahari Karuna exists.

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Back in 2010, at the end of another long turtle season, at ARCHELON’s Lakonikos Bay Project, I found myself a job in western Ghana, living on the beach for nine months as Turtle Conservation Coordinator for Hen Mpoano/USAID! John Flynn came out to visit, and the two of us founded the WILDSEAS, a plan we had hatched while in Greece earlier that year.

In the beginning (2011) we worked on a 10km nesting beach, but it soon became apparent that this was not even scratching the surface. The problems were much more than losing a few turtle eggs. After witnessing the rampant poaching not only on the beaches but also at sea, we reached out to local chiefs and recruited a team of dedicated locals. Although many turtles were caught incidentally in nets, fisherfolk were still landing many turtles and selling them for meat. In 2012 at Axim we secured a commitment from the fishermen to safely release turtles caught in their nets instead of selling them to be butchered.

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In 2015 our Safe Release program expanded to include the fishing villages of Essiama and Ampenyi, greatly increasing the number of fishermen committed to saving turtles in the Western Region. Since 2012, more than 800 adult turtles have been saved thanks to this program, and more than 500 of these turtles have been tagged so WILDSEAS can collect data on their movements.

Last season was our biggest so far and this one looks like we are going to break all previous records… no wonder December and January was no holiday ;-)

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Each place Eric Quayson (our coordinator based in Axim) and I visited, we were run off our feet. Juvenile green turtles captured in beach seines, even one unfortunate enough to have been held captive in a fish pond at Busua. Leatherbacks seem to be everywhere this season and unfortunately we weren’t able to save some of them, but still, the numbers released by us and other projects in Ghana are on the up. One day we went out for a spot of lunch at Dixcove and ended sharing a taxi back to Busua with eight olive ridleys! Eric had found them tied up to one of the fishing boats close to the shore, never a dull moment!

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In December WILDSEAS and other NGO’s in West Africa met to form a new working group that will enable us to engage directly with each other, share ideas/best practices and support each other through any difficulties we may face. WASTCON (West Africa Sea Turtle Conservation Network is now in the latter stages of incubation and will soon be ready to hatch!

More info can be found on our Facebook pages here

Bahari Karuna: https://www.facebook.com/BahariKaruna/

WASTCON: https://www.facebook.com/Sea-Turtles-Network-Initiative-in-West-Africa-377214772841682/?ref=br_rs

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