On the beach
Social media lit up. Suddenly, if you were anywhere near Ostitional Beach in Costa Rica earlier this month, you had to get down to the shoreline to observe an amazing natural phenomenon. Hundreds of thousands of olive ridley turtles were crawling out of the ocean to lay their eggs in the sand. Soon, vacationers and daytrippers lined the beach. So many in fact, there was little space left for the turtles. Gleeful tourists waded into the surf to frollick among the landing party of large turtles. They snapped selfies and filled Facebook pages with images of the determined, purposeful animals. But with virtually all of the sandy beach occupied by gawkers and pests, many of the turtles turned back, retreating into the Pacific Ocean.
The incident has served to chasten Costa Rican conservation authorities about their stewardship of the vulnerable species. They are acting swiftly to improve their protection for the animal. Another wave of turtles is expected in early October. The Tempisque Conservation Area, which covers Ostitional Beach, plans to use security guards, police and the Coast Guard to secure the shoreline for the nesting turtles. It is unknown what long term effect, if any, the disruption of olive ridley turtles nesting behaviour will have on the species.
We are a bit less queasy about destroying the habitat of vulnerable turtles in Ontario. Despite warnings by its own expert that an industrial wind project would wreak havoc on a species considered at risk, Ontario’s Minstry of Natural Resources and Forestry issued the developer a permit to ‘harm, harass and kill’ the Blanding’s turtle.
The question we all must ask is: Why? Why does the Ontario government consider this vulnerable turtle to be expendable? Is it money? Can’t we afford to protect species at risk in this province? Costa Ricans earn about $10,000 per capita annually. In Canada, gross national income is about five times greater. Why is Costa Rica poised to act to protect its species at risk, while Ontario grants permits to kill them?
The town hall in Demorestville was expected to be full this morning as the Environmental Review Tribunal was scheduled to resume with Joe Crowley in the witness chair. On Tuesday the hearings were cancelled and rescheduled for the end of October.
Crowley is an at-risk specialist with the MNRF. He is the ministry’s turtle and snake expert. The Tribunal was nearing the end of a two-year-long appeal with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN), a small but devoted group of conservationists arrayed against the province and a developer hoping to construct nine 50- storey-high industrial wind turbines and carve a road network into a rare alvar habitat on Crown land at Ostrander Point on Prince Edward County’s south shore.
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