Antigua shares the concerns of many countries around the world with respect to endangered sea turtles. It has some special programs in place designed to study the life cycle of Hawksbill turtles in an effort to contribute to the development of sound practices in relation to endangered species throughout the world.
In particular, The Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project which commenced in 1987 and continues to this day, originated with the tagging and recording of nesting Hawksbill turtles on Jumby Bay’s Pasture Beach. Being a private island off the north shores of Antigua, Jumby Bay (or Long Island) provides a private and secluded environment in which turtles can nest with an opportunity for researchers to study the nesting habits of these turtles. It has also provided for educational expeditions for school children and others who visit after dark hoping to see turtles hatching and leaving their nests behind. These educational sessions are controlled and done at a safe distance so as not to disturb or endanger the hatchlings.
Researchers have discovered that females take 20 to 30 years to reach sexual maturity and they can travel great distances to return to the region where they originally hatched and make their own nests and lay their eggs. They only have a nesting season every two to four years and will build four to six nests per season, each separated by about two weeks. At approximately 150 eggs per nesting session, that means that each nesting turtle can produce up to about 750 eggs per season.
Of all the approximately 750 eggs laid by a single turtle in its nesting season, perhaps only one egg will survive to maturity, which is certainly a contributing factor to the endangerment of sea turtles. And, of course, human harvesting for the coveted shells of the Hawksbill as well as for food consumption are major factors in the population decline. However, statistics compiled by The Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project show that there has been considerable growth in the number of turtles nesting at Jumby Bay, particularly in the past eight to 10 years.
When enjoying the waters of Antigua and Barbuda, we hope you will be fortunate enough to encounter our Hawksbill turtle population - either swimming in our quiet bays, perhaps on a snorkeling adventure or maybe even on a deserted beach ashore at night. If you are lucky enough, please respect their space and help us to protect the turtles and their environment!