Who doesn’t love sea turtles?
We’re lucky to share our beaches and waters in St. Kitts and Nevis with these shelled friends of the sea. Whether it’s swimming with them on our dives or watching the hatchlings scurry across the sand to the water, they’re a common sight for Rossies year round, be it hawksbills, greens or even leatherbacks.
Yet, being that it’s World Turtle Day, there’s no better time to remember these guys need our help. Here are four ways you can be a sea turtle ambassador the next time you head to the beach.
1. Stay Away from the (White) Light
During the times of the year when sea turtles are nesting (leatherbacks nest February through July with hatchlings emerging through September; hawksbills and greens May through December with hatchlings emerging through February) ensure that you do not use white lights on the beaches. You can accommodate sea turtles by turning off or completely shielding any lights that are visible on the beach, and by using a red filter on your flashlight if you are out at night.
2. Stay on the Road
Always avoid driving on the beaches as ruts left behind by tires create insurmountable obstacles for tiny hatchlings working their way to the ocean and vehicular traffic can compact sand over incubating nests preventing animals from being able to emerge.
3. Don’t Start the Fire
Avoid bonfires on nesting beaches. Bonfires require permits from the St. Kitts and Nevis Fire Department and when an application for a permit is requested they will speak with the St. Kitts Department of Marine Resources and St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN) to determine which beaches have active sea turtle nests or female emergence events and permits will not be issued for those beaches.
4. Personal Space
If you encounter a nesting female, give her space. If you encounter a sea turtle in the water, observe from a distance and do not touch, capture, or attempt to ride them. Report all sea turtle-related activity to a Sea Turtle Hotline, like the one we have on St. Kitts (869) 764-6664. Like ours, most will have a trained volunteer or staff member available 24/7 to respond to your calls and answer your questions.
The St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN) is a community based nonprofit organization founded in 2003 which monitors nesting sea turtle populations and acts as an advocate for the strengthening of sea turtle protection laws on the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis. The network is working in conjunction with the St. Kitts Department of Marine Resources and a number of national, regional, and international agencies along with the general publication to develop a long term sea turtle monitoring and protection program.