Sea turtles are ancient reptiles adapted to life in the ocean, but when they become sick or injured they often float listlessly at the surface or drift ashore where they are vulnerable to predators and exposure. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of Caribbean sea turtles die every year as a result of marine debris ingestion (for example, mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish), accidental capture and drowning (as a result of netting or hooking), boat strikes and oil spills, and injuries of various kinds.
Delegates from more than 30 Caribbean nations and territories unanimously agreed at the 2004 Annual General Meeting of WIDECAST that a "Sea Turtle Trauma Response Corps" (STTRC) should be created to strengthen and coordinate the efforts of people throughout the Wider Caribbean Region to respond to sea turtles in crisis, whether at sea or stranded on the shoreline. The Meeting envisioned that the STTRC would embrace interested sea turtle project staff and volunteers; veterinarians; zoos, aquaria and "animal rescue" center staff; divers, fishermen and coastal residents; and park and natural resource managers.
STTRC Focal points are working to develop and coordinate local and national networks of people trained to respond to sick and injured sea turtles; maintain communication channels to facilitate emergency assistance; and ensure full compliance with national permit requirements relative to conducting necropsies, collecting and storing tissue samples, holding sea turtles captive for the purposes of rehabilitation, etc.
In recent years, WIDECAST has convened or sponsored more than a dozen training seminars, workshops, and technical courses on veterinary topics, as well as researched and published handbooks of best practices with regard to first response and care during periods of rehabilitation. A manual to guide veterinarians during clinical procedures is currently under development. Finally, partnerships with sea turtle hospitals and rescue centers throughout the region are being developed to provide and promote opportunities for internships and staff exchanges.
For updated information on training, documents, and other resources available from the STTRC, and how to become involved in your area, please visit this site often.