Turtle nesting season: ban on beach bonfires until October

POSTED: 05/25/12 2:11 PM

St. Maarten (DCOMM) – The Fire Department will not be handling any requests for beach bonfires until October. This is due to the turtle nesting season that is currently underway.
The department is therefore requesting individuals and establishments to adhere to the aforementioned request in order to protect turtle nesting sites (public beaches) by making sure that they are not disturbed.
The important nesting beaches are Simpson Bay Beach, Guana Bay Beach, Great Bay Beach and Gibbs Bay.
The Fire Department is working closely with the St. Maarten Nature Foundation, the organization responsible for the management and conservation of Sea Turtles on Sint Maarten.
The department was informed about the recent Guana Bay beach clean-up where it was discovered that four bonfires had taken place on the beach.
Further investigation by the Nature Foundation revealed that nesting female turtles aborted their attempt to nest on the beach, and this was clearly observed from the nest crawls.
According to the Nature Foundation, at nesting beaches, beach bonfires and other sources of light pollution is known to modify sea turtle behavior and even discourage egg-bearing females from coming ashore to nest.
Bonfires and beachfront lighting also strongly affects sea turtle hatchlings, luring them inland and away from the sea where they succumb to predators, dehydration, and other hazards and hatchlings can be attracted to and burned by the flames.
Sea turtle population numbers have plummeted to dangerously low numbers throughout the past century due to human impacts, bringing many species close to extinction, 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, and 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, and it is also forbidden to pick-up or to destroy the eggs of any species of sea turtle, according to the St. Maarten Nature Foundation.

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