Development continues to threaten turtle nesting on Ambergris Caye

Sunday, August 26th, 2018

As the 2018 sea turtles nesting season continues, Hol Chan Marine Reserve (HCMR) personnel have been monitoring what seems to be a very active season. Despite this year’s activity, marine biologists at HCMR are concerned that new construction/development and improper garbage disposal have destroyed a few nests, and now threaten the future of the nesting grounds.
The annual sea turtle nesting season normally runs from May through November, and most of the nesting usually takes place in Robles or Rocky Point Beach, several miles north of San Pedro Town. The main nesters are Loggerhead and Green turtles, with the Hawksbill making rare visits. HCMR Marine Biologist Kirah Forman told The San Pedro Sun that so far, they can confirm over 40 nests on Ambergris Caye. However, that number could have been higher if it was not for development. “This year’s turtle nesting seems to be going well. The Hol Chan staff are constantly monitoring all the areas to make sure that no one tampers with the nests,” said Forman. “Development on the island continues to play a threat for turtle nesting, as it has driven the turtles to even more remote areas where there is no infrastructure.” She clarified that they are not against development, however, it needs to be done sustainably to not discourage the turtles from coming to our shores every year.
Forman also added that the huge accumulation of Sargasso on the beaches is not affecting the turtle nesting. However, when resort staff removes the seaweed from their shores, that’s when problems arise. “We want to advise resorts to be careful when removing Sargasso from the beachfront because sometimes they can destroy turtle nests, especially if they are using heavy machinery do so.”
Forman also asks residents and visitors who may visit some of the beaches north of town, to be mindful that sea turtles are using those beaches for next three months. They further advise visitors not drive over nests, not to tamper with them and to kindly clean up their garbage after recreation on the beach. Turtles do not like to nest in areas polluted by garbage, as it may not be suitable for their offspring. The public is also asked that when visiting at night, to turn off any bright lights because hatching turtles tend to orient themselves with light as they make their way to the sea.
Forman reiterates that the turtles nesting on Ambergris Caye northern shores (the Loggerhead, the Green turtle, and the Hawksbill), are not only synonymous to the island, but they are all listed as endangered species and are protected in Belize. Since 1993, Belizeans are reminded that it is illegal to disturb, poach or possess sea turtles, or their nests. “A person could face criminal charges if caught having turtle products, including the carapace and eggs,” she said. The selling or trafficking of any sea turtle can constitute an infraction that can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year’s imprisonment.
Everyone is encouraged to practice caution when traveling the beach, as well as to report stranded hatchlings, suspected turtle nests or turtle crawls along the beach to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Office, by calling 226-2247.

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