Marine Turtle Conservation in San Pedro, Belize
The 2012 sea turtle nesting season is well underway and the marine biologist of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and staff of Bacalar Chico Reserve are working hard in monitoring the beaches up north and taking down data for this season. A special discovery was made this week on the northernmost part of the island; the very first Hawksbill turtle nest for the season was found by the team.
This season is looking extremely positive and in the four years of monitoring turtle nesting on the beaches of Ambergris Caye, the Hol Chan and Bacalar Chico staff came upon a Hawksbill Turtle nest with a total of 175 hatchlings, along with Green and Loggerhead turtles.
Hawksbill Turtle Hatchling
It is estimated that only one in every 1,000 turtle hatchling survive to sexual maturity; making their way from their nest to the sea, most of the baby turtles are targeted by predators. With this in mind, the crew rounded up the hatchlings and later on released them in the deep waters off the Bacalar Chico Reserve to give them a higher percentage of survival.
Nesting efforts are concentrated in two main beaches on Northern Ambergris Caye which are Robles and Rocky Point beaches. Here biologist and assistants work diligently in finding the nests and counting hatchling success and spoiled eggs. Hatchlings which are trapped in the nests are taken out and rehabilitated at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve Office and then released in the deep water.
During the nesting and hatching season, residents are advised to be extremely careful, be mindful of the endangered turtles and to refrain from tampering with turtles or their nests. Park rangers, along with law enforcement agencies, conduct regular patrols and turtle monitoring along the beaches to collect data that are used to measure and analyze turtle populations in Belize.
Marine Biologist Kirah Foreman counting hatchling success and spoiled eggs
The Ambergris Caye Marine Turtle Project is managed and implemented by marine biologists that work on the marine protected areas of Ambergris Caye. The project started in 2007 by formalizing and recording marine turtle stranding data and rehabilitation. In 2009 turtle nesting monitoring and research was initiated on the beaches of North Ambergris Caye. In 2011 in-water turtle density surveys were conducted.
This is the fourth consecutive year that such monitoring and data collection has been conducted in San Pedro. In Belize, nesting season for turtles runs from mid May to late November. This year data is showing that there are more turtle nests compared to findings in 2010 and 2011 (42 nests and 43 nests found in 2010 and 2011). Up to date there have been 48 turtle nests that have been found for this season which doesn’t end until November.
Residents are being asked to report any citing of turtles on the beaches to the Hol Chan Marine Reserve at 226-2247 or 2262420.