EAG Issues Sea Turtle Updates

 Sea TurtlesAntigua St. John's - Antigua & Barbuda’s marine reptiles have returned for another nesting season, and the Antigua Sea Turtle Conservation Project (ASTCP), a division of the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG), has shared tips for protecting this precious resource.

Leatherback, green, and Hawksbill sea turtles nest in Antigua and Barbuda between March and October. These turtles can lay between 80-150 eggs, and return to shore four to five times in a season. Their eggs will incubate for 60 days and then hatchlings will crawl out to sea. Among these hatchlings, one in 3,000 will survive to become an adult, reaching maturity between 20-30 years old.

Presently, the Hawksbill turtle is categorised as critically endangered, while green turtle populations are categorised as endangered and leatherbacks as vulnerable. "This means, if we want the population of turtles on our island to survive, we need to protect them," the Group said.

In 2013, after consultations with a number of stakeholders, the Fisheries Division was able to define stronger conservation measures for all sea turtles. It is prohibited by law to capture and kill sea turtles of any size, on land or sea, unless open season is declared. Additionally, it is prohibited to cause disturbance to turtles during periods of breeding, incubation, or migration, as well as other periods of biological stress.

Here are some basic guidelines to help protect turtles on the beach and elsewhere:

•    Don’t shine lights at turtles, disturb the nests, or collect eggs or hatchlings.

•    Because lighting can disorient egg-bearing females and their young, leading them inland and away from the sea, please turn off, shield, or redirect lights so they don’t shine on the beach.

•    Avoid driving on beaches: incubating eggs can be crushed and tyre ruts trap newborn hatchlings.

Other ways to protect sea turtles:

•    Don’t litter! Cans and bottles can cause injury to nesting and hatching sea turtles. Also, plastic bags, mistaken for jellyfish, can suffocate turtles, and fishing hooks can damage their internal organs.

•    Check fishing nets frequently, as turtles accidentally get caught and drown.

•    Don’t leave lounge chairs, sailboats, and other obstructions on nesting beaches at night.

•    Safeguard natural vegetation – it stabilizes sandy beaches, helps to protect the shoreline from erosion, and provides sheltered nesting sites.

•    Protect feeding areas (shallow grassy areas); never anchor on coral reefs or seagrass, or touch living coral when diving.

•    Volunteer with the Antigua Sea Turtle Conservation Project via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The public was encouraged to report sightings of nesting turtles, fresh turtle tracks, or nest hatchings on beaches around the island to the ASTCP hotline at 720-6955. For more information and press inquiries contact Ina Howe at 732-1008.

Reporting by Caribarena news, publishing by Ofer Shaked.

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