Conservation Club Urges Protected Area Status for Moruca
Miranda La Rose Stabroek News March 1999
The Santa Rosa Conservation Club (SRCC) is urging government to zone off the Moruca sub-region as a protected area, following the deaths of numerous fauna in the area from forest fires during the El Nino weather phenomenon last year.
The club is also calling on government to continue the ban on trapping and trading of wildlife in the area and has issued a plea to residents to reduce the trading of the fresh water fish, the hassar.
SRCC President, Murphy De Souza, informed residents of the Moruca area at a conservation festival held at the Santa Rosa Primary School in Moruca Region One (Barima/Waini) last weekend, that the club had written a letter to the relevant authority on the issue and had received a reply, which had indicated that the request to protect the wildlife in the area was being looked at. However, he said that whatever the outcome of the decisions by the authorities, "we are not backing down from our request. We will still continue to fight to protect the area."
De Souza told the gathering that thousands of skeletons of monkeys, birds and other animals had been found along the Moruca Coast following forest and savannah fires which ravaged the area during the first quarter of last year.
Calling on residents to lessen the fishing and trading of hassar, De Souza noted that the area, which was once known for its hassar, was now being depleted of the fish resource. He told residents that "if we continue to consume the hassar... stuff our guts" there would be no hassar left. He said that if the pattern continued where hassar could not be replenished the club would have to seek assistance on how best to assist in the protection of the fish and to monitor its trading.
While De Souza and the conservation club lobbied for the protection of the hassar, fishermen in the area have noted that the hassar industry in Moruca was facing stiff competition from persons who brought frozen hassars all the way from Venezuela and sold them at a cheaper price in the Moruca area as well as in the Pomeroon River. This they claim was threatening their livelihood in this season when hassars are plentiful.
The group which feels threatened would like government to restrict the sale of hassar coming from Venezuela. Hassar from Moruca is sold at $140 per pound, while that coming from Venezuela is sold at $100 per pound.
Giving a background to SRCC, De Souza said that it began eight years ago as the Santa Rosa Turtle Conservation Club. The club began with some 20 children but now boasts a membership of over 80. The objective was to make fishermen and residents of the area aware of the danger of the extinction of the Leatherback and other species of sea turtle.
In the past, each year when the laying season began at Shell Beach, fishermen from the Moruca area would travel some distance to slaughter the rare turtle to sell its meat and eggs which are considered delicacies.
Initially the club began with assistance from conservationist Dr Peter Pritchard, and the first two trips to Shell Beach received financing from him. Since then the club's expeditions to Shell Beach have received assistance from the United Nations Educational Cultural and Scientific Organisations (UNESCO), the Ministry of Education through Region One Education Department, the Roman Catholic Church and the Guyana Chapter of Conservation International and other organisations. As a turtle conservation club, its activities were seasonal, but were subsequently expanded to include other conservation activities and so its name was changed.
In has address, Member of Parliament, Marco De Souza commended the club for bringing to the community's attention not only matters that affected the community and the country's administrative regions but regional an international matters such as the proposed transportation of nuclear waste through the region and its likely impact.