Sea turtles are iconic marine reptiles that date back to the dinosaurs and an important attractor for dive tourism. They are also keystone species with a vital role in the health of the oceans, linking various ecosystems from beaches to seagrass beds and coral reefs. Sea turtles use beaches and the lower dunes to nest and lay their eggs. Before they were protected the turtles and the eggs were a valuable food source.
Turtle population is monitored by nesting surveys, foraging ground surveys and sightings during tourist dives (more). The nesting season for sea turtles in the Dutch Caribbean roughly lasts from May to January.
Nesting surveys: Bonaire and St. Eustatius
In the nesting season the beaches most used by turtles are patrolled by monitoring staff and volunteers. Signs of nesting and hatching are recorded. Moreover, nests are excavated and detailed information is gathered on the number of eggs laid and the hatching and emergence success.
Foraging ground surveys: Bonaire
Around March-April snorkel surveys are swum for about one hour and the number turtle individuals are counted per species.
Sightings during tourist dives: Saba
All year round tourists dive together with a guide trained in species recognition. The guides registers the species and number of individuals sighted per dive.