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Posted: Tuesday 10 February, 2009 at 3:28 PM

SKSTMN, Tourism Authority partner in ecotourism initiative

Director SKSTMN Dr. Kimberly Stewart
By: VonDez Phipps, SKNVibes

    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – THE St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN) has partnered with the St. Kitts Tourism Authority in a new eco-friendly approach to tourism to be undertaken in the near future at various sea turtle nesting sites on the island.


    In an exclusive interview with SKNVibes, Dr. Kimberly Stewart, Director SKSTMN, informed that one of the major objectives of her organization is to establish a community-based long-term sea turtle programme involving as many persons as possible in monitoring. She added that it would be an important step to take, to use the organization’s turtle monitoring activities to enhance the island’s tourism product.


    “Each night April through July, we work from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., tagging all the turtles coming in and monitoring nesting. And so we are beginning to create jobs based around those activities. Also, we are trying to promote the awareness of sea turtles here in St. Kitts. Many people are not even aware that there are three nesting species of sea turtles here, two of which are critically endangered: the leatherbacks and the hawksbill.


    “We are working with the St. Kitts Tourism Authority and developing an eco-tourism package unique to St. Kitts. As of April 1, we will be taking tourists out to nesting sites in small groups of nine. They would be given the opportunity to go along with our group, see what we do and learn more about the initiative,” Dr. Stewart added.


    Product Development Manager in the St. Kitts Tourism Authority Randolph Hamilton told SKNVibes that he is very excited about the new partnership between the public and private sectors adding that the project is expected to benefit many.


    “I welcome the opportunity to develop the tourism product of the island. It gives the Tourism Authority a way to diversify our tourism product and focus on protecting our endangered species including the hawksbills and leatherbacks. It is indeed critical for us to protect these species.


    “This venture also provides us another opportunity to develop community tourism in the communities where sea turtle nesting activities take place including Conaree, Keys, Cayon, Sandy Point and Half Way Tree. We will go out into the various communities and create awareness about the endangered species, and also to encourage them to take ownership and protect these species.”


    Hamilton informed that the project is also expected to train locals in glass blowing to sell small models of turtles at the various nesting sites. He indicated that there already exists a market for such tourism products and noted that the Amina Craft Market is a “wonderful example where local entrepreneurs are producing fine art work”.


    “We are sending a positive message to the international arena that we value our environment and the endangered species as we attempt to save them from the nets of fishermen. Instead of killing turtles, we are now taking a more sustainable approach not only for the species but for our communities.


    “That’s how we reach the grassroots people; we are going to them to show them that eco-tourism can provide them with sustainable jobs. We do hope that as we educate locals, each one teach one and pass on the message to enhance the overall approach to tourism.”


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