Eastern Caribbean Hawksbill Sea Turtles Tracked as Part of New Conservation Project

Issue 3, 2006 Articles:

* Eastern Caribbean Hawksbill Sea Turtles Tracked as Part of New Conservation Project
* Reducing Sea Turtle Mortality & Bycatch in Fisheries

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Eastern Caribbean Hawksbill Sea Turtles Tracked
as Part of New Conservation Project


Through a new partnership with the Nevis Turtle Group, CCC began an inaugural sea turtle research and conservation project to study the migration patterns of one of the most endangered sea turtles in the world. In August 2006, CCC researchers, with assistance from the Nevis Turtle Group, deployed satellite transmitters on two “critically endangered” hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) nesting along the Caribbean coast of Nevis in the West Indies. The study will reveal important information about the turtle’s migratory behavior, which will help both conservationists and natural resource managers to improve protection efforts for this endangered species.

“This was the first time hawksbills have been tracked from St. Kitts & Nevis,” said Dan Evans, CCC Outreach & Field Program Coordinator. “We really don’t know where they will migrate once they finish nesting here in Nevis, but the information will be very useful in shaping local and international conservation efforts for this colony.”

During the deployment of the turtles in Nevis, CCC Executive Director David Godfrey spoke with local officials and members of the media about the importance of reducing human impacts on Caribbean hawksbill populations. The country of St. Kitts and Nevis still permits hawksbills to be harvested during certain times of the year, despite evidence suggesting that as few as 50 adult females may be nesting on the island of Nevis. CCC hopes greater local awareness about the threats facing Nevis turtles will lead to new laws restricting harvesting of hawksbills in this region.

CCC began tracking hawksbills from Costa Rica in 2000 as part of a research project being coordinated by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA) that is tracking hawksbill migrations from nesting beaches throughout the wider Caribbean. In 2003, CCC began tracking hawksbills from Panama as part of the Chiriquí Beach Hawksbill and Leatherback Research and Conservation Program in partnership with Drs. Anne and Peter Meylan. One of the transmitters for the Nevis deployment was provided by NOAA as part of their ongoing Caribbean hawksbill tracking project, while the other was funded through the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, with additional support provided by the Four Seasons Nevis Resort.

“Mango” reaches the water after being released with a satellite transmitter.

Data already are streaming in with information about the hawksbills’ post-nesting migrations. CCC’s Internet-based Sea Turtle Migration-Tracking Education Program allows anyone with Internet access to follow the movements of the two hawksbills, named “Nevis” and “Mango.” The on-line program teaches people about sea turtles and the threats to their survival by allowing them to “watch” sea turtles as they migrate from the nesting beach to feeding grounds located hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

As of the end of September, 2006, Nevis had traveled north to the waters around Guadeloupe, while Mango has stayed in the waters between St. Kitts and Nevis. Migration maps are online atwww.conserveturtles.org/satellitetracking. Help support sea turtle research by adopting a satellite tracked turtle! Learn more about how to Adopt-A-Turtle at www.conserveturtles.org/join.

Text by Daniel Evans and David Godfrey. Photos by Charles Fisher/Four Seasons Nevis