Tracking map of some of the nesting turtles.
ANGUILLA–During the past twenty months the Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources (DFMR), in partnership with the Anguilla National Trust (ANT) and the University of Roehampton, based in the United Kingdom (UK) have been studying sea turtle behaviour. The programme is being funded by the European Commission’s BEST 2.0 funding mechanism. Three different endangered sea turtles have been studied – the hawksbill that is critically endangered, the green turtle that is endangered and the leatherback that is vulnerable – all of which forage within Anguilla’s waters and nest on its beaches.
These turtles once numbered in the hundreds to thousands, but due to overfishing and habitat loss – both locally and regionally – their numbers have plummeted. Since 1995, there has been a moratorium on the harvesting of these reptiles and their eggs in an attempt to save the species populations from further decline. As turtles live a long life and generally do not begin to reproduce until their twenties, collecting enough information to inform conservation action takes time: turtle hatchlings that emerged from their nests at the beginning of the 1995 moratorium would only now be old enough to reproduce.
Data, collected by the DFMR tag release programme over 15 years and the ANT nesting numbers for the past ten years are now being analysed in an effort to show population trends. Satellite tagging has also been used to track juveniles that are foraging in Anguilla and adults that are nesting here. After approximately a year of data collected from eight foraging turtles and four nesting turtles, preliminary results indicate that Anguilla’s foraging turtles remain in Anguilla’s waters while nesting turtles have travelled great distances during their nesting period. Sea turtles can nest multiple times throughout a nesting period. It is believed that they return to where they hatched to nest, and while this is often the case, it is not always.
During the next six months the three agencies involved are to attempt to attach an additional 12 satellite tags to Anguilla’s turtles as well as to continue to monitor their foraging and nesting numbers. The groups are encouraging individuals to report any sightings of nesting sea turtles as well as the emergence of hatchlings to the National Trust.
Advice on protecting turtles includes turning off all lights on beaches at night; recycling fishing lines; reducing, recycling and reusing plastic; not buying anything made from turtles; and practising safe boating.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/72712-national-trust-continues-sea-turtle-tracking-programme