WHAT TO DO DURING SEA TURTLE NESTING SEASONThursday 23rd June 2016
Here in Antigua and Barbuda we are lucky enough to share our environment with a number of spectacular species both on land and in the sea that surrounds us. Of these species that reside in and pass through our waters, quite a few are on the Critically Endangered Species list, including all of the sea turtle species that frequent our islands. Antigua and Barbuda is host to Hawksbill Turtles, Green Turtles, Leatherback Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles. Of these, Hawksbill, Green and Leatherback Turtles, come ashore to lay their eggs each year around the islands during the key nesting months of March to November. As such, you may come across a nesting turtle on a beach or hatchlings emerging from their nest and making their way to the sea.
Photo via EAG
If you encounter a turtle on shore, either adults nesting or emerging hatchlings, here are some guidelines to ensure the turtles safety:
- Refrain from contact with hatchlings. Their first walk from their nest to the shore is essential in "imprinting" the beach on these hatchlings so they return to nest many years later.
- Do not touch or attempt to contain the hatchlings unless they are in imminent danger (heading toward a road) – adults and hatchlings on shore at night are guided by moonlight to and from the sea, and sometimes will go toward lit street lights near beaches instead.
- Do not interfere or come into proximity with any adult nesting turtles unless they are in imminent danger.
- No flash photography or bright lights – their eyes a very sensitive and it could blind them.
- Do not disturb any turtle nests you may come across on the beach.
- Do not leave large items (chairs, umbrellas, etc) on the beach at night – they can obstruct a turtle’s path and prevent nesting.
- Keep pets away from adult and hatchling turtles.
- Do not approach turtle arriving from the sea – they are easily frightened off.
- Stay quiet and move around slowly and move away if the turtle shows signs of distress.
- Contact the Antigua & Barbuda Sea Turtle Hotline for guidance or help on 720-6955/772-1529.
For a comprehensive list of rules for Sea Turtle Watching, click here.
It is illegal to disturb, take, or sell turtle eggs, meat and products under the laws of Antigua and Barbuda. To report any suspicious activity call ASTCP on 720 6955 or the Fisheries Division.
Unfortunately in Antigua we still encounter acts of poaching like this recent nest raid, but the ASTCP continues to patrol and, alongside other groups, work toward the conservation of these magnificent creatures.
Do Your Part
Whenever you encounter a sea turtle, whether in the water or on the shore, admire from afar unless you can see the turtle is in danger. Report your sightings or any suspicious activity to the conservation project or relevant authorities.
Refuse a straw. Plastic waste like straws end up in our oceans – and for this poor Olive Ridley turtle, embedded in his nostril. Do what you can to reduce your plastic waste, which is severely affecting all wildlife, including sea turtles.
Donate to or join in conservation projects like the Antigua Sea Turtle Conservation Project, which is spearheaded by the Environmental Awareness Group. Read more about the project here and join their Facebook group to get updates on nesting and hatchlings around Antigua.
Information gathered from Nicola Nash and Mykl Clovis Fuller on Save Antigua’s Sea Turtles, the EAG, and www.dfw.com.
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