A just hatched baby turtle on its way to the ocean at Zeelandia beach.
ST. EUSTATIUS–Residents of St. Eustatius are advised to be aware of sea turtle nesting season. Marine Park Manager and Sea Turtle Programme Coordinator of St. Eustatius National Parks STENAPA Jessica Berkel said that sea turtles are critically endangered, as they face many threats while at sea, from polluted water to derelict fishing nets to deliberate fishing and being caught as bycatch on long lines.
Turtle programmes try to give them a chance when they are nesting by protecting them when they are laying their eggs. Protecting the beaches where they nest is vital in this process, STENAPA said.
“We ask simple things like do not drive on the sand. You might compact the sand which prevents little hatchlings from digging their way out or you can crush them because they are hard to see. Digging up the sand on the beach can also destroy nests and eggs,” said Berkel.
Bright lights or loud noises on the beach can disturb nesting females and confuse them. Bright lights also confuse hatchlings and cause them to crawl the wrong way and get lost, so when the sun comes up they are so far from the water that they die of heat exposure from the sun, Berkel explained.
Touching or holding them is also a “No,” as it causes stress on the turtle whether on land or in the water, so persons are requested to avoid contact.
Sea turtles are protected year-round on Statia and on all the Dutch territories. To harm one or be in possession of a sea turtle or any part thereof carries a stiff penalty. Beach bonfires are also prohibited during nesting season.
Berkel said that should anyone wish to see a hatching event or volunteer to walk the beach or just wants more information they can contact STENAPA at tel. 318-2885. The hours of operation are Monday-Thursday, 7:00am-5:00pm, and Friday, 7:00am-4:30pm.