Kick off of the 2019 sea turtle nesting seasonDutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA)
Although there are officially five different sea turtle species that call these waters home, only four have been known to nest here: Loggerhead, Leatherback, and Green and Hawksbill turtles. There are different organizations that identify, monitor and protect known recorded nests to ensure maximum hatching success. It is important to note that these nests are very delicate, so there is a variety of precautions that should be taken while visiting beaches with nesting turtles. It is, for example, important to minimize quad and car traffic along these beaches. Bringing dogs that could accidentally dig up nests early, should also be avoided. Moreover, minimizing beach lighting, litter and fires can help to increase the likelihood that new hatchlings make it to the ocean successfully.
On Aruba, the calendar year often starts with the last nests of the previous season still hatching. This year, 2019, there were three Hawksbill nests that still hatched successfully. The nesting season runs from March to December (or January) and usually starts off with Leatherback nesting. This year, an early Green Turtle nested on March 16th, before the Leatherbacks started by the end of March.
Turtugaruba volunteers work tirelessly from March to September to monitor and protect Leatherback nests on Eagle Beach and the Low Rise Hotel area, a total stretch of about three kilometers where people and Leatherbacks share the beach. A total of 37 Leatherback nests have been laid here already, and there might be one or two more coming. Hatching has also started and is witnessed by hundreds of locals and tourists, an excellent awareness opportunity inspired by nature.
Leatherbacks also nest on the other side. During the entire season (March-December/January), beaches all around the island are monitored for nesting and hatching activities of all four species that nest on Aruba. The Loggerhead, Green and Hawksbill turtle nesting season have started, and one of the Loggerhead nests has already hatched.
The nesting season on Bonaire started right on time: Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire recorded the first nest on May 3rd. The island is typically visited by three species of turtles: Loggerhead, and Green and Hawksbill turtles. On average, a hundred nests are laid every year. This makes Bonaire an important nesting site within the south Caribbean. The official nesting season on Bonaire runs from May to December. During these months, a team of dedicated volunteers patrols the beaches every morning to record signs of nesting and hatching, as well as monitoring the safety status of the nests. STCB staff and volunteers place barriers around nests on popular beaches, relocate nests that are at risk of drowning and rescue hatchlings that become disoriented or are unable to successfully make it to the ocean. STCB estimates that approximately 50,000 sea turtle hatchlings have hatched on Bonaire’s beaches during the past five years.
Sea Turtle Conservation Curaçao (STCC) announced that on June 1st, the first three turtle activities were discovered, which officially jumpstarted the island’s nesting season. The islanders have been working to prepare the beaches for potential nesting sites over the past few months. On June 11th, a group of volunteers from VEVA worked to clear thick mats of Sargassum off the beaches of Klein Curaçao to allow turtles better access. STCC also hosted sessions specifically designed for children to allow them to learn more about the ocean and sea turtles, and to become future sea turtle ambassadors!
Saba has very limited beach area available for nesting sea turtles, so nesting activities on this island are very rare. However, on January 9th of this year, Cove Bay welcomed the hatchlings from a Green turtle nest! It was a rare and exciting event for the island and Saba Conservation Foundation hopes to welcome more green turtle nests this season.
To celebrate World Ocean’s Day, STENAPA hosted a turtle patrol training session and beach cleanup along Zeelandia beach, bringing attention to the start of the nesting season on the island. Shortly after, on June 14th, they welcomed their first successful nest with 65 baby Hawksbills to Oranjebaai! STENAPA will soon be hosting an interactive public chat to learn more about what can be done to protect sea turtles on the island. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the local sea turtle population and find out what you can do to help.
The Nature Foundation St. Maarten was pleased to announce that on April 28th, the first leatherback sea turtle successfully laid her nest and returned to the sea for the first time since Hurricane Irma. Hawksbill and Green sea turtles had returned to nest last year; however, Leatherbacks were notably missing. The return of Leatherback sea turtles to Simpson Bay beach is a significant milestone after the catastrophic damage caused by the 2017 hurricane season.
For more information, please feel free to reach out to the sea turtle conservation groups. Following these groups is a great way to receive up to date information on sea turtle nests in the Dutch Caribbean.
- Aruba: TurtugAruba & Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba
- Bonaire: Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire & Stinapa Bonaire
- Curaçao: Sea Turtle Conservation Curacao & Carmabi
- Saba: Saba Conservation Foundation
- St. Eustatius: STENAPA
- St. Maarten: Nature Foundation St. Maarten
Pictures: Jannie Koning; Ken Clifton; Brenda Kirby