STENAPA’s protection of Caribbean Sea turtles – Repeating Islands

Three different types of turtles can be found on the beaches and in the surrounding waters of St. Eustatius: the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), green turtle (Chelonia mydas), and leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). The hawksbill and green turtle are frequent visitors of the waters of Statia and can be encountered during snorkeling or diving. Every year, nesting hawksbill and green turtles can be found on the beaches. A less frequent visitor is the leatherback turtle. They can only be spotted while nesting since the leatherback is a deep-sea species. Occasionally, a nest of a Leatherback turtle can be found on St. Eustatius.

STENAPA monitors the beaches, both morning and night, to identify new nests and track hatching success. The details and information from these beach patrols are collected by filling in data sheets. Those data sheets can be used internationally for the purpose of having comparable data.  Annemieke Borsch and Louise Kramár, two students from Van Hall Larenstein University, recently produced protocols as part of an explanatory report in cooperation and guidance from STENAPA. These protocols cover morning patrol, night patrol and next excavation while the whole report can be used as a guide for how to perform certain tasks in a correct, safe and careful way during patrols.

The green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles are on the IUCN red list of endangered species. The green turtle is listed as ‘’endangered’’ and the hawksbill and leatherback turtles are listed as ‘’critically endangered’’. Sea turtles need protection because they are keystone species. This means, that they are an important part of the marine environment and have an influence on the species living among them. Hawksbill turtles live close to the coral reefs, where they feed on sponges which compete with corals for space. Green turtles are important because they feed on seagrass, which keeps the seagrass ecosystem healthy meaning it can take up more carbon and sustain more species this way. Leatherback turtles are known to control the number of jellyfish in the oceans. Besides the ecological benefits, the turtles are also important for coastal communities, since many people rely on the incomes that are being provided by turtle watching and diving. Some indigenous communities see turtles as a part of their culture and there is said that seeing a turtle in the wild has psychological and emotional benefits.

STENAPA’s protection of Caribbean Sea turtles – Repeating Islands