Beer benefits sea turtles

Sea turtles throughout the Caribbean are set to benefit from a recently announced partnership between SABMiller and the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network.

Funds, raised for the programme through the sale of specially branded cans of Miller Lite, will go toward

protecting sea turtles in the region through advocacy, research, education, and volunteer programmes. The conservation initiatives include beach clean-ups and other community-based activities that impact sea turtle habitats.

The Cayman Islands Department of Environment represents the Caribbean wide conservation network locally and will benefit directly from the funds raised in Cayman through the partnership with SABMiller.

“We believe this important partnership with WIDECAST will make a tremendous difference in helping to preserve our coastal environments. Few places in the world owe as much to sea turtles as do the Cayman Islands,” said Frank Roulstone, general manager of Cayman Distributors, the local distributor for Miller Lite.

According to Scott Schaier, SABMiller’s manager of Caribbean operations, the company’s involvement with the conservation network is a further step in proactive promotion of causes that are important to its customers, business partners, and their families.

“[W]e feel fortunate to be able to partner with WIDECAST and look forward to helping increase community support for endangered sea turtles, raising environmental awareness, and promoting a stronger sense of community within the Caribbean,” he said.

Tim Austin, deputy director of the Department of Environment, emphasised the importance of a regional approach to turtle conservation.

“Regionally coordinated conservation efforts are essential because marine turtles are a highly migratory species travelling huge distances and through many different jurisdictions throughout their lives, obviously without a regional approach one country’s efforts at conserving a species can easily be undermined if similar efforts are not undertaken in whole range of that species,” he said.

However, a focus on local conservation efforts is also vital.

“Local conservation programmes are very important in educating people about local practices that can reduce the risks that turtles face. The DOE’s marine turtle research programme has provided valuable data that has allowed us to introduce local management actions that are having a noticeable positive effect on the number of turtles nesting in Cayman,” he said.

According to Janice Blumenthal, research officer with the department, the initiative would help turtle conservation in the Cayman Islands.

“Sea turtle populations in the Cayman Islands are critically endangered and face many threats to their survival. Funds raised by Miller will allow us to purchase much-needed materials to assist in protecting our turtles, including supplies for underwater cleanups and shields to prevent lights near the beach from leading baby turtles in the wrong direction,” she said.

Mr. Austin said that although it is difficult to determine just how many turtles there used to be in the Cayman Islands, it is clear the numbers were far in excess of what we see today.

“Turtle nesting populations in the Cayman Islands were nearly extirpated by the early 1800s so it’s difficult to determine their original numbers. However, given historical reports and reported levels of harvest it’s estimated that the turtle nesting population numbered in the millions at the time of European discovery. Today, typically less than 40 turtles nest each year,” he said.

The Cayman Islands were originally given the name Las Tortugas by Christopher Columbus for the number of turtles in the waters. The turtles played a very important role in the shaping of the Cayman Islands as ships visited the islands to catch turtles and replenish their on board food supply.

According to Ms Blumenthal, Miller Lite is assisting in marine life conservation efforts in other ways as well.

“We are also excited about Miller Lite’s innovative use of cardboard containers for cans instead of six pack rings. Discarded six pack rings and other plastics can entangle and choke sea turtles, seabirds, and other marine animals, so the Miller commitment to finding an alternative is a big step forward for wildlife,” she said.

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