Saturday, July 13, 2024

Turtle Nesting Season Under Threat from Human Activity

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The 2022 Turtle Nesting Season is underway, with nests already registered on the beaches of North Ambergris Caye. While the island has long been a hot spot for turtle nesting, the increase in human activity has threatened the health of a successful nesting season in recent years. According to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the local authorities in charge of monitoring and recording the nesting season on Ambergris Caye, the main areas are from Punta Azul to Robles Beach and the Rocky Point area.

The first turtle nests were reported in early May, and the season will last until November. On their social media page, Hol Chan shared the importance of protecting these nests, stating, “Turtles are very important not only to the ecosystem but also to our tourism industry. The only way to ensure we can continue to enjoy these amazing animals is to ensure they are successful at reproducing.”

Some of the main issues endangering the successful hatching of these nests include vehicle traffic in the area and the improper disposal of garbage. “The public is urged to please be mindful when traveling north to look out for any nest signs and avoid running over these. Driving over the nest will cause the sand to be compacted, resulting in the hatchlings not being able to escape the nest once hatched, and all hatchlings will die. The Hol Chan staff monitors the nesting beach, working closely with persons residing in the area, clearly marking each nest. Persons utilizing these beaches for recreation are also asked to be mindful that they are not disturbing a nest,” says Hol Chan.

Turtle eggs have an incubation period of around 45 to 70 days for most species. It is reported that a hatchling sea turtle can take up to three to seven days to dig its way out of the nest to the surface. Undisturbed nests can have more than 90% of the clutch successfully hatch for most sea turtle species. Nests disturbed by humans or animal predators tend to have a 25% or even lower success rate. Only about one in 1,000 turtles survive to adulthood, heightening the importance of protecting all nests to ensure the maximum number of hatchlings.

Sea Turtles and their nest are fully protected under the  Fisheries Resources Act No. 7 of 2020, as stated in Regulation 10 of Statutory Instrument No. 66 of 2002. “No person shall fish for in the waters of Belize or buy, sell, or have in possession any turtle of the following species: a) Eretmochelys imbricata (Hawksbill Turtle) b) Caretta caretta (Loggerhead Turtle) c) Chelonia mydas (Green Turtle) d) Dermochelys coriacea (Leatherback Turtles). No person shall take any turtle found on land; disturb, take, buy, sell, or have in possession any turtle or turtle eggs; or interfere with any turtle nest, except under written permission from the Fisheries Administrator. No person shall buy, sell, take, or have in his possession part of turtles or articles made of any part of the turtle. Any person found in contravention of these regulations will be prosecuted in accordance with section 14 (1) of the Fisheries Regulation, Chapter 210s of Subsidiary Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2000-2003.”

Loggerhead and Green turtles are the main species known to nest on North Ambergris Caye; however, Hawksbill turtle’s nests have also been recorded. The public is reminded not to disturb a turtle nest, and if they spot an unmarked nest or see a turtle crawling in the area, please report the sighting to the Hol Chan office by calling 226-2247 and messaging through Whattsapp at 614-6439 or contacting them via their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/holchanbelize.

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