Sea turtle nesting season begins

POSTED: 04/29/16 12:25 PM

stmaartensea turtles

Baby Hawksbill sea turtles make their way to the ocean on Dawn Beach last year. Photo contributed

St. Maarten News – The sea turtle nesting season is here again, the St. Maarten Nature Foundation said in a press statement. Each year between April and November, female sea turtles return to lay their eggs on the major nesting beaches of Simpson Bay, Guana Bay, and Gibbs Bay and other beaches on the island. Three sea turtles nest on St. Maarten’s beaches, including the Green Sea Turtle and the largest sea turtle species, the Leatherback.

Sea turtles have existed for well over 180 million years, even before the dinosaurs. St. Maarten is one of the few places in the region that has a nesting population of sea turtles, so we should do all that we can to protect their nesting areas,” said Tadzio Bervoets, manager of the Nature Foundation.

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 or pick up sea turtles. It is also illegal to directly or indirectly disturb their environment resulting in a physical threat or damage or to commit other acts which result in disturbance of the animal. It is also forbidden to disturb, damage or destroy sea turtle nests, lairs, or breeding places. Also, it is forbidden to pick-up or to destroy the eggs of any species of sea turtle.

The St. Maarten Nature Foundation actively manages the sea turtle population on St. Maarten, particularly during the nesting season. The Foundation conducts various activities with regards to nesting females including beach surveys, nest excavations, tagging activities, and nest success research. The Foundation also relies heavily on volunteers to assist it in its Sea Turtle activities and welcomes any volunteers who would be interested in working with sea turtles. Beach communities in particular are in the best position to help ensure that females nest safely, that nests are left undisturbed and that hatchlings make it safely to the sea. This year the Nature Foundation also urges restaurants and beach bars along the major nesting beaches to refrain or limit the use of beach bonfires and artificial lighting which can seriously reduce the survival rate of sea-turtles. The Nature Foundation asks that people also do not drive on the nesting beaches and that they walk their dog on a leash.

To report nesting activity or illegal activity, please call the Sea Turtle Hotline 9229 or call the Nature Foundation office at 5444267 or email the Foundation at info@naturerfoundationsxm.org

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