Press Release

Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour
Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports
Release Date:
Tuesday, 30 June 2020 - 3:18pm

The Government of the Virgin Island is partnering with the United Kingdom (UK) charity, the Marine Conservation Society and the University of Exeter who is committed to boosting turtle conservation in Montserrat and the Virgin Islands.

Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture, Dr. the Honourable Natalio Wheatley, said, "We are delighted to be awarded this funding through the UK Government's Darwin Initiative. It shows recognition of our continued commitment to protect our natural resources and continuously improve the sustainable management of our waters. The inclusion of the Community Voice Method means that we will have a transparent and indelible record of our fishers' traditional practices to integrate with the progressive and innovative concepts we are exploring for the future growth of our Blue Economy. The Virgin Islands has a legacy of pioneering innovative legislations built on sound science and for the betterment of our people. We are excited to add the project partners and the donors to the list of people who treasure the gems of the Virgin Islands."

Sea turtle conservation in the UK Overseas Territories of Montserrat and the Virgin Islands will be boosted after the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the University of Exeter secured two significant grants from the UK Government’s Darwin Plus Initiative.

The UK’s Overseas Territories (UKOTs) are incredibly rich in wildlife and complex ecosystems, possessing over 94% of UK’s unique biodiversity. The UK Government’s Darwin Plus Initiative provides funding to support projects, which aim to protect the natural environment of the UKOT’s.

The two projects will work directly with the Governments of the Virgin Islands and Montserrat as well as local partner organisations and communities to support the recovery, monitoring and management of turtle populations.

In the Virgin Islands, the Marine Conservation Society will lead on a project alongside local organisation, the Association of Reef Keepers (ARK). The initiative will support the improved management of the turtle populations and the recovery of crucial habitats, including reefs and seagrass meadows. This interdisciplinary project involves partnerships with the Government of the Virgin Islands and the UK’s University of Exeter.

This three-year project will aid in gaining a better understanding of the status of turtles using the Virgin Islands’ habitats, and foster improved local knowledge of turtle conservation. Using the MCS Community Voice Method (CVM) of engagement, the project will work with the community to develop legislation recommendations and a conservation action plan to safeguard the Virgin Islands’ turtle populations for future generations.

The Montserrat project is led by the University of Exeter and the Government of Montserrat, and MCS will play a key supporting role. The project will help build the capacity of locals to monitor and manage local turtle populations through an improved scientific evidence base. MCS will also use CVM to engage the island’s community in the development and implementation of a Marine Turtle Species Action Plan for the Territory.

The Marine Conservation Society’s extensive experience of using CVM to engage sea-users in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) to improve the sustainability of turtle fishery legislation there will be drawn on with these two projects.

Amdeep Sanghera, MCS’s UKOT Conservation Officer, said, “We are absolutely delighted to have received crucial Darwin Plus funding for two new projects in the Virgin Islands and Montserrat. These projects will help us understand the status of turtle populations in these UK Overseas Territories, and how people are dependent upon them. In the face of climate change, habitat destruction and overfishing, it’s vital we develop resilience in these island’s marine ecosystems for the turtles and for the people that also depend on them for the economy and well-being. These grants will allow our partnerships to fully engage with local communities in developing strategies to safeguard sea turtles and their habitats in these two amazing places.”

For more information on the Marine Conservation Society’s work in the UK Overseas Territories please visit

Note to Editor(s):

Community Voice Method: The Community Voice Method (CVM) is a method of stakeholder engagement that promotes participatory democracy, and uses film and workshops to reach deep into communities to develop locally-owned solutions to conservation issues. CVM was originally developed in the USA by Drs Gabe Cummings and Carla Norwood, who MCS worked with when they first used CVM to develop new turtle fishery legislation with fishing communities and Government in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2010. MCS has since deployed and developed CVM in the UK, often with Dr Cummings, working with local regulators on marine protected area management; marine management prioritisation; and coastal access issues. To find out more about CVM see


Nekita Turnbull

Ag. Deputy Chief Information Officer
Department of Information & Public Relations 
Telephone: 468-2730