Nature Foundations increases Sea Turtle conservation work

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PHILIPSBURG – St. Maarten has recorded its first successful Sea Turtle nest of the 2016 Sea Turtle Nesting Season, with a successful nest being recorded at Gibbs Bay Beach recently.

The Foundation has also been collaborating with the University of Groningen (NL) and IMARES Wageningen UR (NL) on a Dutch Caribbean sea turtle project funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research in measuring and tagging green and hawksbill turtles foraging in the waters around St. Maarten.

“This project is a part of our work to conserve and protect these endangered species from extinction, and we hope that with the results we can conduct better management actions to ensure that these very important animals make a successful recovery,” commented Nature Foundation Manager Tadzio Bervoets.

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 regard 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, call the Sea Turtle Hotline 9229, or call the Nature Foundation office at 544-4267 or email the Foundation at info@naturerfoundationsxm.org.

Caption: Sea Turtle tracks on Gibbes Bay

Sea Turtle being released after being measured, tagged and having its DNA extracted with Nature Foundation Projects Officer Melanie Meijer Zu-SLochtern in the background (photo Jeferson Techera/ Ocean Explorers)