A team of conservationists is studying hawksbill turtles along the coast of Port Salute in Haiti’s southern coast. These endangered turtles are hunted for their shells, which are used in the production of Japanese combs, eyeglass frames, and other items. Despite a 1977 ban on the trade in tortoiseshell, a black market for these items still exists. A survey conducted in 2019 found that over 380 out of 782 hawksbill turtles seized worldwide originated in Haiti, and were trafficked to Vietnam via France.
Franklin Barbier, sea turtle and seabird coordinator for the Haiti Marine Project, is leading efforts to investigate the turtle population in Haitian waters. Much is still unknown about turtle populations and their distribution in the region, as well as their relationship to waters in the wider Caribbean and world oceans. Turtles are still sold for meat and shells in Haiti, posing a significant threat to their survival. Fuel shortages and inaccessibility of some communities also present a challenge in conservation efforts.
Barbier, who was raised in Petit Riviere de Nippes, a coastal fishing village in southern Haiti, was inspired to protect sea turtles when he witnessed a woman trying to sell juvenile green sea turtles for meat in 2012. Since then, he has been involved in the Haiti Marine Project, which has taught him about marine megafauna and their marine environment from a scientific perspective. Through the project, Barbier has rescued over 100 hawksbill and juvenile green sea turtles.
Another scientist in the global South, Eric Quason, is a Ghanaian conservationist who tags leatherback turtles in Axim, Ghana. As an Australian science journalist based in Medellín, Colombia since 2014, I am dedicated to shining a light on the achievements of scientists in the global South and their contributions to sustainable development, public policy, climate change adaptation, and healthcare in developing countries.