St Eustatius National Parks Foundation (STENAPA) is the only environmental non-governmental organization on St Eustatius. In 1996, the Island Government gave legal mandate to STENAPA to manage a new marine park.
The Marine Park maintains dive and yacht moorings and conducts many programs such as the Snorkel Club, the Junior Ranger club, surveys of marine life, school educational activities and since 2002, the conservation of sea turtles on St Eustatius.
Until present, three species of marine turtles are nesting on the St Eustatius beaches: the Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata).
STENAPA’s second annual turtle monitoring program started on April 17, 2003. In June 2003, Nicole Esteban (STENAPA Manager) was appointed country coordinator for WIDECAST to replace the previous manager.
STENAPA has four permanent staff and is able to undertake projects such as the sea turtle conservation thanks to two international volunteer programs that started in 2001 and 2003.
Methodology for the 2003 programme included:
- Volunteers participating in the programme receive a theoretical and practical training on the sea turtle monitoring programme.
- When a sea turtle is observed nesting on Zeelandia Beach, the turtle width and length is measured, location of the nest is recorded and measured and the turtle is tagged by trained personnel who are in charge of nightly patrols.
- STENAPA conducted video interviews of two elderly Statians in June 2003, to document historical information about the number and species of turtles. Information is now known about turtle nesting and hunting as early as the 1920’s.
- Hatchling emergence from the nest is monitored and nests are inventoried.
- In 2003, staff used GPS mapping to monitor beach erosion, sand movement and to identify nest location of sea turtles.
- In 2003, STENAPA arranged a series of beach clean ups, schools and businesses presentations.
Results for the 2002 and 2003 Sea Turtle Monitoring Programme are as follows:
- A minimum of 3 Greens and 1 Hawksbill nested in 2002.
- A minimum of between 3-10 Leatherbacks, 2-3 Greens, 2-5 Hawksbills came and nested in 2003.
- In 2003, two measurements on two Hawksbill turtles were taken, and in 2002 two measurements on two Green turtles were collected.
- In 2003 one Hawksbill was tagged twice on the front right and the front left flipper. In 2002, three Greens were tagged on the front flippers.
- A total number of 41 hatchlings were rescued in 2003.
Recommendations for the 2004 programme include:
- Increased supervision of Working Abroad night crew members: either the Sea Turtle Programme Coordinator or Marine Park Interns (Marine Biologists) will be in charge of night patrols.
- Purchase of additional equipment to facilitate night patrols.
- Training of staff at international meetings.
- Monitoring of sunset emergence as soon as a dedicated truck for the turtle programme can be purchased.
- Beach mapping to be conducted regularly to monitor changes and map turtles.
- Continuation with the community education programme at schools and local businesses.
It is expected that, with a full time programme coordinator, improved monitoring and increased number of volunteers, there will be increased numbers of turtles monitored in 2004.