In June 2011, Red Sea Diving College decided to extend its conservation projects. Matt Kitchiner, RSDC’s new Operations Manager and a keen conservationist, contacted Agnese Mancini who works as part of the research team with HEPCA (Hurgada Environment Protection and Conservation Agency), founded in 1992 are an internationally recognized NGO specializing in the field of marine and land conservation.
With a variety of conservation projects and campaigns ranging from “Save our Wrecks” to coral “Bleach Watch”. Matt decided that with his fondness of sea turtles that “TurtleWatch” was the project to be involved with.
The program is based upon the “observe to conserve” principle and collects data from participating divers on turtle abundance and distribution. Divers love to contribute towards the efforts of marine conservation, especially when it involves one of their favorites; the turtle, the fact that turtles are so easily identifiable means that they are ideally suited for the type of monitoring involving non-professional researchers.
Armed with a folder full of information, each day one guest becomes the “turtle watch monitor” for the day. It is a great way for them to spice up a regular days diving as they can read up on turtle facts and then when spotting a turtle they log data such as site, depth, breed, water temperature and behavior. Like any good research it is also important to log the times turtles are not spotted as their presence is as important as their absence.
The data collected by RSDC will be reviewed by Agnese and her staff, inserted in a Red Sea Turtles database and will be used to generate spatial and temporal distribution maps of sea turtles but also to estimate population trends and abundance.
So far this project has been a great success, with guests asking to volunteer to be “TurtleWatch” monitor for the day. Matt says “that the project is easy, fun and informative. Anyone can be involved and the data that we are supplying to HEPCA is invaluable. As turtle populations decline and their natural environments worldwide are being destroyed the more we understand these ancient creatures the more we can all do to protect them”.
Next time you visit, why not volunteer to be our RSDC “TurtleWatch” monitor for the day! Better still; why not sign up for our PADI Sea Turtle Awareness Specialty!