The sea turtle nesting season officially ended with the start of this month, as the nesting season runs from April till November each year, however hatching of sea turtle nests are still being expected throughout December and January. The Nature Foundation, which is the assigned organization to monitor sea turtle nesting on Sint Maarten, is still expecting several nests to hatch on Gibbs Bay, Mullet Bay and Dawn Beach in the coming weeks. The Foundation asked the public to be cautious for see turtle nesting activities and report any suspected activity imminently to the Foundation.
“Although the season ended, we still need to be vigilant for sea turtle nesting activities, we have at least four nests which are expected to hatch in the coming weeks. It is important to obtain information about our sea turtle hatching success in order to determine the state of the population and coming generations, therefore any suspected hatching activity or tracks of hatching sea turtles should be reported immediately to us. By contacting us directly, we are able to take the necessary data and measurements before tracks are faded, in order to determine hatching success of our sea turtles” explained Nature Foundation’s Manager Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
The Nature Foundation was able to increase their sea turtle nesting monitoring for this year due to monitoring intern Saskia Werner from the University of Applied Sciences Dresden, Germany, who studies the sea turtle population on St. Maarten. On a weekly basis, Saskia has been collecting sea turtle nesting data, such as nesting signs, tracks and environmental conditions on all of our main nesting beaches; Gibbs Bay, Guana Bay, Simpson Bay Beach, Great Bay Beach, Mullet Bay Beach, Dawn Beach and Little Bay Beach. In the coming months the beaches will be still monitored for hatching and the data will be analyzed to determine the sea turtle nesting status for St. Maarten.
Sea Turtle population numbers have plummeted to dangerously low number throughout the past century due to human impacts, bringing many species close to extinction and causing them to be listed as critically endangered. All sea turtles are protected on St. Maarten by international laws and treaties and as well by 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 results 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.
When you see sea turtle hatchlings or nesting activities at the beach, never use a flashlight or flash photography. Normal lights will disorient the sea turtle or hatchlings and they will get lost on the beach ending up exhausted, while becoming an easy prey for the many hungry predators. It is important that the hatchling have a smooth way to the ocean, without trash and holes to get stuck in, therefore please leave our beaches clean and cover up dug holes by humans or dogs as soon as possible.
Even that the small sea turtles look very cute, they are wild animals and should never be touched or disturbed. Furthermore, it is very important that sea turtle babies crawl themselves from the beach into the sea, to make sure they are able to find their natal beach back when they reached adulthood, as female sea turtles will nest on the same beach in which they hatched. Therefore, hatchlings must not be carried to the sea by humans and the Nature Foundation need to be contacted for proper procedures when a nest is hatching. Nature Foundation can be reached by phone 5444267, email firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook; Nature Foundation St. Maarten, emergency contacts can be provided upon request.
[picture: Sea Turtle Nest at Gibbs Bay; Saskia Werner]