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The Environmental Awareness Group of Antigua & Barbuda

Raising awareness & promoting sustainable use of natural resources

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Saving the Sea Turtles: How Did It All Start?

In 2007 the first ongoing survey of mainland nesting beaches was conducted by the Environmental Awareness Group with invaluable guidance from WIDECAST and the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project team. The beach survey represented one part of a comprehensive turtle conservation effort that included public outreach and education, and management interventions for sea turtle conservation. The purpose of this survey was to better understand the turtles themselves and how widespread the nesting population was, and will continue over the years collecting and compiling data.

Spearheaded by Mykl Clovis Fuller, her team of trained conservationists and volunteers is able to monitor nesting activity of some 5 significant sites around Antigua during the key nesting months of March to November. They also try to tag every new nesting turtle so they can be identified upon return in later years.

All sea turtles species found in the Caribbean are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Antigua and Barbuda boasts three nesting species of sea turtle: Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Green (Chelonia mydas), and Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) as well as a visiting species sometimes found travelling/feeding in our waters, the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta).

The decline of sea turtles has been rapid and significant in the past few hundred years. This is mostly due to over-harvesting of the turtles and their nests (for food and jewelry made from the shells of some), increased boat strikes/activity, and pollution of the sea by humans. At this point the common statistic for survival among hatchlings is that only ONE in a thousand baby turtles survive to be an adult and reproduce. As it takes most sea turtles up to twenty years (at least)to be sexually mature, most turtles are unable to make it to adulthood with all the threats they face—both natural and manmade. By keeping the oceans and beaches safe for turtles, other marine life and future generations also benefit. If the most important turtle habitats can be identified and protected, then the species will have a much greater chance for survival.

Turtles are known as an indicator species and provide great insight into what is happening with other marine life. Their feeding habits are an important part of maintaining a balanced ecosystem in and around our waters, and their nests (leftover eggshells and un-hatched eggs)even provide vital nutrients for the plant life growing on our beaches. If sea turtles were to disappear completely, many other marine species and habitats could be negatively affected.

Turtle News Turtle Photographs
Leather back Turtle

EAG Turtle Conservation Project

Freshly hatched Leatherback
Turtle conservation donations

You can do this online on the WIDECAST site. If you indicate "EAG" in the "special instructions", the donation will be specifically used to help conserve sea turtles in Antigua and Barbuda. Thanks so much!

 

If you wish to make a donation to sea turtle conservation, we would be most grateful.

Flora and Fauna International

The EAG wishes to thank Fauna and Flora International and the UK Government (DEFRA) for their generous support for this project.

Widecast

The EAG  also wishes to thank the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST) and the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project for their invaluable support for this project.

Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project

Sea turtle conservation efforts and education will continue long into Antigua’s future thanks to help of previously mentioned organizations and the continued effort of the EAG’s trained conservationists. New programs are being enacted to educate hotel operators and their guests, as some hotel beaches do see quite a bit of nesting activity in the season. There are also outreach programs being developed for schools and children’s summer camps to teach Antigua’s younger generation how important sea turtles really are.

While it is NOT encouraged that people go out seeking to discover nesting turtles on their own in the spring/summer months, the EAG does conduct some supervised turtle watches—led by trained volunteer conservation guides—on the mainland and to one of our offshore islands from June to November. These watches are specifically for the education of locals and tourists, and carried out with the help and cooperation of the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project team and EAG coordinators. To receive more information about sea turtles and turtle watching trips, or to make a direct donation to our sea turtle conservation efforts, please contact our office (268-462-6236)or email the EAG (eagantigua@gmail.com) for assistance.

To keep up on seasonal updates of sea turtle activity and events, you can also follow the ‘Environmental Awareness Group’ and ‘Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project’ on Facebook as well.