St. Maarten Nature Foundation Sea Turtle Watch Group Records First Hatched Leatherback Nest

The St. Maarten Nature Foundation Sea Turtle Watch Group recorded its first hatched nest last week. Last Wednesday, a Leatherback turtle nest successfully hatched on Guana Bay Beach. One of the new members of the Nature Foundation Sea Turtle Watch Group, Wietske Burger, during her second early morning beach patrol found and recorded 56 Leatherback hatchlings.


The St. Maarten Nature Foundation Sea Turtle Watch Group, a group of citizens that are specifically trained to assist in Sea Turtle Conservation, was established recently. The group also assist the Nature Foundation in patrolling important Sea Turtle nesting beaches and record the nesting of Sea Turtles. The group will also assist the Foundation in recording the endangered animals in the ocean using snorkelling gear. The Nature Foundation reminds the community of St. Maarten that each year between March and November female sea turtles return to lay their eggs on the major nesting beaches of Simpson Bay, Guana Bay, and Gibbs Bay. There are three sea turtle species which nest on St. Maarten beaches, including the Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle and the largest sea turtle specie, the Leatherback. The public is asked to dial the Nature Foundation Sea Turtle Hotline 9229 if they see a turtle nesting or if they suspect a nest.


Sea turtle population numbers have plummeted to dangerously low numbers throughout the past century due to human impacts, bringing many species close to extinction and causing them to be listed as critically endangered. In order to reverse this trend, all sea turtle species are now protected by international laws and treaties as well as local laws. Based on ARTICLE 16 and 17 of the Nature Conservation Ordinance St. Maarten it is illegal to kill, wound, capture or pick-up sea turtles. It is also illegal to directly or indirectly disturb their environment resulting in a physical threat or damage or to commit other acts that result in disturbance of the animal. It is also forbidden to disturb, damage or destroy sea turtle nests, lairs, or breeding places. Also, it is forbidden to pick-up or to destroy the eggs of any species of sea turtle.

The St. Maarten Nature Foundation actively manages the sea turtle population on St. Maarten, particularly during the nesting season. The Foundation conducts various activities with regards to nesting females including beach surveys, nest excavations, tagging activities, and nest success research. The Foundation also relies heavily on volunteers to assist it in its Sea Turtle activities and welcomes any volunteers who would be interested in working with sea turtles. Beach communities in particular are in the best position to help ensure that females nest safely, that nests are left undisturbed and that hatchlings make it safely to the sea. This year the Nature Foundation also urges restaurants and beach bars along the major nesting beaches to refrain or limit the use of beach bonfires and artificial lighting that can seriously reduce the survival rate of sea turtles. The Nature Foundation asks that people also do not drive on the nesting beaches and that they walk their dog on a leash. To report nesting activity or illegal activity, please call the Sea Turtle Hotline 9229 or call the Nature Foundation office at 5444267 or email the Foundation at in**@na******************.org.