Nature Foundation report: Sea turtle nesting season moderately successful

POSTED: 11/7/12 12:32 PM

GREAT BAY – The St. Maarten Nature Foundation has recorded a moderately successful sea turtle nesting season. From March to May three species of sea turtles come to lay their eggs on local beaches, one of the few places on earth were this actually occurs.

“This year we have had a total of 14 nests, with a total of 365 confirmed hatchlings of all three species (Hawksbill, Leatherback and Green) so far. Our first recorded nest was from a leatherback sea turtle on Guana Bay beach in early April and our last nest was laid on Gibbs Bay by a Hawksbill three weeks ago,” the Nature Foundation said in a statement issued yesterday.

“This year we received a lot of support from the community for the sea turtle work. We received great help from the Fire Department in controlling the amount of beach bonfires that are very harmful to turtles. Similarly many beachside businesses and restaurant voluntarily shaded their beach lights off during nesting season. Divi Hotel took excellent care of the sea turtle nest on the beach in front of the hotel. During high waves they protected the nests and gave their staff and guests great explanation as to the importance of nesting sea turtles,” the foundation stated.

The RBC Bank contributed to the protection of sea turtle nests, particularly on Guana Bay, where the bank initiated two very large scale cleanups and managed to keep the beach clean enough for both nesting turtles and hatchlings to survive. “Because of RBC’s efforts we were able to record successful hatchings at most of the nests along that beach.”

The foundation launched an in-water monitoring program for sea turtles in cooperation with local veterinarians, the Sea Turtle Conservation of Bonaire and with help of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance. Numerous turtles were tagged and measured and health assessments were carried out. Although the population was relatively stable, there are numerous threats to the sea turtle population of St. Maarten which could cause the animals to become increasingly endangered if protection is not supported and broadened, the foundation warns.

Sea turtle population numbers have plummeted to dangerously low numbers throughout the past century due to human impacts, bringing many species close to extinction and causing them to be listed as critically endangered. In order to reverse this trend, all sea turtle species are now protected by international laws and treaties as well as local laws.
Based on ARTICLE 16 and 17 of the Nature Conservation Ordinance St. Maarten it is illegal to kill, wound, capture, pick-up, have animals that belong to a protected animal species, to directly or indirectly disturb their environment resulting in a physical threat or damage to the fauna or to commit other acts which result in disturbance of the animal. It is also forbidden to upset an animal belonging to a protected species, to disturb damage or destroy its nest, lair, or breeding place, as well as to take the nest of such an animal. Also, it is forbidden to pick-up or to destroy the eggs of animals belonging to a protected species.

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