The St. Maarten Nature Foundation is carrying out scientific research and nesting monitoring programs to conserve and protect sea turtle species from extinction. Research and monitoring will lead to better management actions to ensure that these very important animals make a successful recovery.
Sea turtle population numbers have plummeted to dangerously low numbers throughout the past century due to human impact, bringing many species close to extinction and causing them to be listed as critically endangered. To reverse this trend, all sea turtle species are now protected by international laws and treaties as well as local laws on St. Maarten.
The Nature Foundation executes different projects to research the sea turtle populations on St. Maarten. Tagging, measuring and sampling projects are carried out for Green (Chelonia mydas) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricate) turtles foraging in the waters of St. Maarten. Scientific research provides information about the movement patterns, growth and population structure of the sea turtles, besides the DNA samples provide extended information and determine abundance, migration, diet and tropic level.
The Foundation collaborates also with the University of Groningen, Wageningen University and Wageningen Marine Research on sea turtle research.
The Nature Foundation actively manages and monitors the sea turtle nesting activities on St. Maarten since 1999. Endangered Leatherbacks, Hawksbills and Green Sea turtles come ashore during the nesting season that runs from April through November each year. The Foundation conducts various activities with regard to nesting, including beach surveys, nest excavations, tagging activities, and nest success research.
Restaurants and beach bars along the major nesting beaches are asked to refrain or limit the use of beach bonfires and artificial lighting which can seriously reduce the survival rate of sea turtles. Beach visitors are asked to not drive on the nesting beaches and walk dogs on a leash.
Based on Articles 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 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.
Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database
Participate in Sea Turtle Monitoring
The Foundation relies heavily on volunteers to assist in its 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.