Last week the Nature Foundation received a report of a dead sea turtle on Simpson Bay beach close to the Beacon Hill area. The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) clearly died due to a boat strike in Simpson Bay waters and washed up on shore. The year 2020 started not that long ago and already three green sea turtle lost their life due to boat traffic, whereby the cause of death is a strike with speeding boat engines.
“We were very sad to find the dead sea turtle, especially as due to COVID 19 measurements hardly any boat traffic is happening at the moment, apparently some boats still chose to speed in the foraging grounds of sea turtles. Last year we reported also many dead sea turtles, five of them died due to boat strikes in and around the Simpson Bay Lagoon area, two sea turtles died in our trash, ending up entangled in a chair and fishing gear, also an additional amount of sea turtles died on the French side. Sea turtles are vulnerable species, when they forage they need to come up to the surface in order to breath, speeding boats do not provide the sea turtles enough time to escape back into the safe zone” stated Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern Nature Foundation’s Manager.
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. On St Maarten, all sea turtle species are 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, and 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, which Sea Turtles are.
“We are seriously concerned about the survival chances of our sea turtle population and urge to increase and enforce the protection level of our precious sea turtles” stated the Nature Foundation.
The Nature Foundation is asking to contact the Foundation when injured or dead sea turtles are found, as proper burial is needed, besides the Foundation is the designated authority for sea turtle management and other endangered and invasive species issues. Sea turtle nesting season started on the first of April, therefore please report any possible nesting signs and tracks to the Nature Foundation, as all sea turtle nests are being monitored by the Foundation.
The dead green turtle also had several tumors due to the Fibropapillomatosis virus, a common disease found in sea turtles probably facilitated by poor water quality. The animal can live with the tumors for a long time, but it does show us something about its health and health of the surrounding waters. The cause of these tumors is unclear; however polluted water could certainly play a roll. Scientific research found a link between excess nitrogen (sewage) which accumulates in algae that sea turtles eat. This can cause Fibropapilliomatosis in sea turtles, which forms tumors and is the leading cause of deaths in endangered green sea turtles.
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