Nature Foundation Conducts Wide Scale Research into St. Maarten Sea Turtle Population

Over the past week the St. Maarten Nature Foundation, in cooperation with the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance and Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, have been conducting extensive and Intensive research into St. Maarten’s Sea Turtle Population.


Three members of Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire visited St. Maarten for a week’s worth of intensive training and surveying in which staff, trained veterinarians and volunteers of the St. Maarten Nature Foundation were given the capacity to conduct in water surveying, health assessments, tagging and measuring of the local resident sea turtle population.

"This work has been different for us due to the fact that previously on St. Maarten only turtles that came up the beach to lay their eggs were counted and measured. This time around we were thought firstly how to record sea-turtles in their environment in the wild, but also how to tag and capture sea turtles that might be in distress. This is the first time an in depth and wide-scale study in the islands turtle populations was conducted," read a Nature Foundation Statement.

Various hawksbills and green sea turtles were counted, tagged and measured while conducting diving surveys in all of the waters surrounding St. Maarten. Initial reports show that there is a reasonably stable population of sea turtles offshore with various species being checked for health. Several turtles were also given identifying tags so that their progress can be continuously recorded.

Unfortunately, surveys on the sea turtle population in the Simpson Bay Lagoon were also carried out with the aim to establish if turtles were regularly visiting the area. During diving surveys conducted in the Lagoon very little evidence of a resident sea turtle population was established. "We were disappointed although not surprised to sea that the sea turtle population in the Simpson Bay Lagoon was almost non-existent considering the level of pollution, development and lack of food to be found in the area. We will be communicating this fact to decision makers with the hope that conservation efforts will be increased in the lagoon and that in the near future some areas will once again see sea turtles return. We are cautiously optimistic of this due to turtles having historically made their home in the Lagoon."

Another issue investigated was the impact experienced by local sea turtles from fishing pressure; "We have noticed that many turtles have horrible scars and wounds from fish hooks and lines. We will be again working with Decision Makers and Stakeholders in developing means in which to reduce the number of fishhooks and fishing lines drifting in the sea. Although we regularly do underwater cleanups we need to add to our efforts to reduce fishing lines and hooks in the ocean."

St. Maarten is home to two sea turtle species the Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles, with a third species the Leatherback visiting each March to October to lay eggs on the Beaches. Sea Turtles are critically endangered and worldwide conservation efforts are being initiated to save the species from extinction. The St. Maarten Nature Foundation Manages the St. Maarten Sea Turtle Conservation Program.