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ANTIGUA CONDUCTS SEA TURTLE SURVEY
Wednesday 10th September 2014

Story via www.caribbeantimes.com

After an exciting week on the water and with the expert assistance of two marine biologists of Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, ten volunteers have now been trained in methods for surveying turtle populations in their marine habitats around Antigua and Barbuda. The first survey of sea turtles within the Cades Bay Marine Reserve on the southwest coast on Antigua was also conducted simultaneously. The effort was a collaboration of the Antigua Sea Turtle Project (ASTP) of the EAG and the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project (JBHP), who have been working to expand their research program from studying turtles on nesting beaches on Antigua and Long Island, to include studies of turtles in key marine habitats. Thanks to the Sandals Foundation, the first steps have been made towards the development on an ongoing in water monitoring program on Antigua’s endangered sea turtles.

Photo via www.caribbeantimes.com

The surveys identified a number of endangered green and hawksbill sea turtles using sea grass and coral reef habitats within the Cades Bay Marine Reserve, at various life stages from juvenile to adult; turtle mating was also observed in the area. The training course involved extensive practice in snorkel survey techniques, turtle spotting, capture, and recording of essential data on size, health, identification of individuals, and mapping locations of sea turtle sightings and habitats. Turtles were tagged and safely released to the same area of initial capture. All work was done with the permission of the Fisheries Division of Antigua and Barbuda, and under strict adherence to best practices and protocols for the safety of the animals. The Coordinator of the ASTP, Mykl Clovis Fuller, noted that “in general handling of turtles is strictly prohibited, so all our researchers are trained in specific handling methods for the purpose of the study, and every effort is made to minimize stress to the animals and return them to the water as quickly as possible”.

Photo via 'Save Antigua's Sea Turtles' Facebook Group

Along with the Sandals Foundation, this work was made possible by the tremendous effort of volunteers and supporters, including Adventure Antigua, Nico and Goldfin Ti Ponche, Jolly Dive, John and Sarah Fuller, and the ASTP and JBHP. Mabel Nava and Sue Willis of Bonaire provided excellent guidance and encouragement to our team. The research aims to continue the surveys of key habitats around the island at least twice annually. These studies can yield critical information on the status of marine ecosystems, sea turtle population trends, patterns of habitat use and quality, and provide important data to inform management efforts.

Photo via 'Save Antigua's Sea Turtles' Facebook Group

Help us ensure that sea turtles continue to return and thrive in our waters and on our shores. The public is encouraged to report sightings of nesting turtles, fresh turtle tracks, or nest hatchings on beaches around the island to the ASTP hotline at 720-6955. For more information and press inquiries email the Antigua Sea Turtle Project at abseaturtles@gmail.com.

Other stories related to this Survey come from www.antiguachronicle.com, dubbed "Antigua Sea Turtle Project (EAG): Our Trash Threatens and Kills Numerous Sea Turtles Annually" and "Volunteering with Antigua Sea Turtle Project- An Adventure to Remember".


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