St. Eustatius Sea Turtle Conservation Programme - Annual Report 2009
The St Eustatius National Parks Foundation (STENAPA) established the Sea Turtle Conservation Program following concerns that the island’s sea turtle populations were being threatened by anthropogenic disturbance and destruction of nesting beach habitats through sand mining, joy riding and pollution.
A community outreach campaign was organized in 2001 to begin raising public awareness about sea turtle conservation issues. Subsequent to this initiative, a beach monitoring program was started in 2002 in affiliation with the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST). The first two years of the program saw very sporadic monitoring of the index beach due to a lack of personnel. In 2003 however, regular night patrols were conducted following the introduction of the Working Abroad Program, which brings groups of international volunteers to assist with projects in the National and Marine Parks. By 2004 the program had expanded to include morning track surveys on several of the island’s nesting beaches, with a dedicated vehicle and a full- time project coordinator during the nesting season.
Data from the Sea Turtle Conservation Program have shown that three species of sea turtle regularly nest on St Eustatius; the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), the green (Chelonia mydas) and the hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), all of which are classified as either endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN. There has also been an unconfirmed report of nesting by a fourth species, the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), which IUCN classes as threatened.
The ultimate objective of the St Eustatius Sea Turtle Conservation Program is to promote long-term survival of the sea turtle populations on and around the island. This goal is achieved by safeguarding critical sea turtle habitats, conducting research to provide policy and decision makers with current, relevant data on the status of sea turtles in the region, and limiting environmental impacts on nesting beaches and near-shore waters. One of the most important factors to ensure the success of the project is the direct involvement of the local community in the program to promote a better understanding of the importance of long-term conservation, not just for sea turtles but for other locally threatened species.
The aims of this Annual Report include the following:
- Summarize the activities of the 2009 Sea Turtle Conservation Program.
- Review the accomplishments and deficiencies of the program in 2009.
- Suggest recommendations for the 2010 program.
- Provide a summary of the data from 2009 research initiatives.
- Present information locally, regionally and internationally about the research and monitoring program on the island.
- Produce a progress report for the Island Government, potential program funding organizations, the local community and international volunteers.