Communities throughout Grenada have historically relied upon turtles as a source of food and income. Coupled with the consumptive use of adult turtles and despite legislation to protect them, turtle eggs continue to be illegally harvested from nesting sites to be sold and distributed throughout the family structure.

As all species of turtle become increasingly threatened, Ocean Spirits is working with local communities to utilise this natural resource through means other than consumptive use. One way to achieve this is to demonstrate that the financial value of a nesting turtle is substantially higher than that of its dead counterpart. Through the development of sustainable Eco-tourism programs, Ocean Spirits setup Grenada’s first turtle watching initiative in 2009 this was designed and set up to be managed entirely by Grenadians. Members of the local communities were trained to become turtle guides to lead visitors to Levera Beach to watch nesting leatherbacks. Despite 2001 legislation protecting all sea turtle eggs, the poaching of nests continues across a variety of more remote nesting beaches at an alarming rate with up to 90% poaching occurring.

For the perceptions of the value of a sea turtle to change so must efforts continue to demonstrate in a tangible way the alternatives available to often impoverished communities. Coupled with its education programme, Ocean Spirits belief that the future of this species lies not solely in the hands of legislator’s scientific bodies or NGO’s but rather the very communities that rely upon them. By visiting communities with our leatherback model, Donella and armed with materials, face paints and games we work to spread the importance of sea turtles and how communities can be involved in their protection.

Each year Ocean Spirits dedicates a portion of staff and volunteer time to give back to the communities closest to the nesting beaches. This can come in a variety of forms. Several Village and beach clean ups, involving local community members, local groups and schools are organised each season in an effort to combat the increasing trash in the environment and on the beaches. We do not only pick up the garbage but conduct studies into what is found, quantities and provide litter and recycling education.

To help combat beach erosion and stabilise the nesting area at Levera, Ocean Spirits hired members of the local communities to help plant trees. We had volunteers from local schools and the girl guides come out too. To date almost 500 sea grapes and sea almond plants have been added to beach in efforts to stabilise the beach.

Not only on the beaches will you find the turtle team working to give back to the communities. In 2016 whilst visiting a local primary school for turtle awareness activities we saw it was run down and in much need of a facelift. While hosting a group of 16 Trinidad students along with the Ocean Spirits staff and volunteers we re-painted and vamped up the primary school ready for the new school year.