Turtle nesting season begins, island residents are asked to be cautious

Friday, May 24th, 2019

The 2019 sea turtle nesting season has commenced, and personnel from the Hol Chan Marine Reserve (HCMR) have been closely monitoring the first nests found in northern Ambergris Caye. HCMR is uncertain about the success of the season this year and ask the general public visiting the beaches north of San Pedro Town to be extra cautious and to not interfere with any potential nests.
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-Castillo told The San Pedro Sun that they are is looking forward to a successful nesting season.. “The season just started so we don’t really know what to expect. So far, we have found two nests and have been closely monitoring them. When we find turtle nests, we don’t tamper with them, we just monitor to make sure they are in a safe place. Most of the times they hatch at night, so we don’t get to see them. We make our count on how many turtles hatch based on the shells left behind,” she said.
Forman-Castillo also shared some precaution measures for island residents and visitors who may visit some of the beaches north of town. She asks that they be mindful that sea turtles are using those beaches for the next three months. Visitors are advised not to 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 and can interfere with their success.. 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.
Another problem that continues to threaten turtle nesting season is development on the island as it has driven the turtles to even more remote areas where there is no infrastructure. HCMR clarifies that they are not against development, however, it needs to be done sustainably so as not to discourage the turtles from coming to our shores every year. They call on authorities issuing permits to take this into consideration.
The general public is reminded 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 an endangered species and are protected in Belize. Since 1993, Belizeans have been reminded that it is illegal to disturb, poach or possess sea turtles, or their nests. A person can face criminal charges if caught having turtle products, including the carapace and eggs. 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 at 226-2247.

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