Shell Beach remains closed until mid-July
DPI/GINA, Guyana, Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Due to high tides and an increased erosion rate, the beaches of the Shell Beach Protected Area (SBPA), including Almond Beach which is a major turtle nesting site and tourist destination, has been flooded. This had resulted in the Protected Area Commission (PAC) closing the area.
Commissioner of PAC Denise Fraser said that Shell Beach is still closed to tourism. She explained that, “We had to source funds to carry out works to remove the Guest House to higher ground,” a contractor is being procured to carry out the works, and it will be reopened as soon as the work is complete.
Due to the 2017 nesting season, “No Netting Zones” have been implemented along two areas at the Shell Beach Protected Area, with Zone 1 located at Almond Beach and Zone 2 located at Tiger Beach.
These Zones have been implemented since mid-April and will be in effect until mid-July corresponding with the peak of the turtle nesting season according to Fraser.
Fraser explained that incidental capture in gill nets (drift seines) set along the Shell Beach Protected Area continues to be a major threat to sea turtles that frequent the area. However, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries Department in 2000 implemented “No Netting Zones” along major nesting sites at Shell Beach due to the high incidence of turtle mortality mostly due to entanglement and drowning in fishing nets.
Fraser urged local fishermen to desist from using long seines which extend more than 2 miles during this period within these zones. However, the use of hook-and-line fishing and smaller seines are permitted. These smaller seines should be checked on a regular basis (every 3 hours). Pole seines are not permitted during the night. Trawlers are required by law to use Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs). This is to ensure that “Our sea turtle populations are protected for future generations,” Fraser explained.
Shell Beach was designated a protected area in 2011 in accordance with the Protected Areas Act 2011. Shell Beach Protected Area (SBPA) lies in the north western portion of Guyana, within Region 1, stretching over 120 kilometers of beach and mudflats. It covers an approximate area of 123,055 hectares.
One of the primary reasons for designating Shell Beach as a protected area is the use of Shell Beach by marine turtles as nesting grounds. Marine turtle includes the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricatea), Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), and Green turtle (Chelonia mydas). The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed these species as endangered and vulnerable. All four species of sea turtles are protected by legislation in Guyana by the; The Protected Areas Act, 2011 and Fisheries Act 2002.
Additionally, President David Granger recently reiterated this government’s drive to have ‘green’ regions and ‘green’ capital towns, which should in the future have one legally-designated regional protected area.
The Protected Areas Commission (PAC) is expected to be the engine of ‘green’ growth as the success of the ‘green’ agenda will be determined by the efficacy of the Commission’s work President Granger said late May, 2017. The ‘green’ strategy will promote the development of eco-tourism and eco-educational tourism President Granger noted, at the said time the President called on citizens to exercise stewardship over protected areas.
The PAC also launched its five-year Strategic Plan 2016-2020, under the theme “Protecting Nature and Improving Lives,” at this event.
By: Zanneel Williams