Sea turtles being put in jeopardy at Guana Bay

GUANA BAY–Nature Foundation has sounded the alarm about the local sea turtle population being put in jeopardy by construction activities, bonfires and vehicles driving on Guana Bay Beach, the country’s most important nesting site.

The Foundation recently executed a wide-scale assessment of the threats to the country’s native sea turtle population. The assessment found that in the last two months activities on Guana Bay Beach are sufficient for “grave concern” about the safety of this most important sea turtle nesting beach.

The large scale excavation and disturbance of sand on Guana Bay Beach has resulted in a seriously damaged ecosystem for nesting turtles, said the Foundation.

Nature Foundation has communicated its findings to authorities in the hope that the matter can be solved. The community is urged to call the Foundation’s offices on 544-4267 if they notice sea turtles nesting or if they notice illegal activities on any beach.

Each year between March and November, female hawksbill, green and leatherback sea turtles return to lay their eggs on the island. Guana Bay Beach is the most important nesting site, with 42 per cent of all sea turtles having nested on just that one particular beach.

Trash also is affecting the beach. The Foundation has had help of several organizations and groups in to clean the beach. However there is a continuous source of trash piled along the beach. This is detrimental for beach goers as is it for fauna, in particular sea turtles who can get entangled or who can digest the trash.

The Foundation suggests that government or concerned individuals place bins along the beach and for regular trash collection to curb the amount of trash found on Guana Bay Beach.

Bonfires and beachfront lighting also strongly affects sea turtle hatchlings, luring them inland and away from the sea where they succumb to predators, dehydration, and hatchlings can be attracted to and be burned by the flames.

Driving on the beach is also a significant issue. During its patrols, the Foundation has consistently noticed tire tracks of vehicles driving on the beach. This is an illegal act on St. Maarten and carries with it a fine. Driving on the beach is very detrimental to beach stability and can also crush turtle nests through engine and tire vibration.

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. To reverse this trend, all sea turtle species are now protected by international laws and treaties as well as local laws.

Source: The Daily Herald