Turtle time! | Eco buzz

Endangered turtles return to Caribbean shores through nesting season

  • An endangered leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) returns to the sea after nesting at Grande Rivière beach, Trinidad. Photo by All Canada Photos/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Photo by Ekaterina Kuzmenkova/Shutterstock.com

The Caribbean is among the most important turtle nesting grounds globally — particularly Trinidad, which is the second largest nesting site for leatherbacks in the world, and the largest in the western hemisphere. And May through August is the best time to see both the nesting mothers and the baby hatchlings who begin to emerge. It’s a magical, unforgettable experience!

Sea turtles — keystone species, and all vulnerable or endangered — play important roles in keeping our oceans healthy. They provide food for other wildlife, maintain coral reefs and seagrass beds, and control jellyfish populations. Hatchlings also face long odds — about one in 1,000 or fewer will reach maturity. The females that do will eventually make their way back to these shores to begin the ritual anew.

It’s one of the many reasons WIDECAST — the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network comprising NGOs across the Caribbean (widecast.org) — has worked tirelessly to protect them, through a range of community-driven programmes, beach patrols, turtle-tagging, captive breeding, rehabilitation, public education, and turtle tours for locals and visitors alike.

Trinidad & Tobago is home to five sea turtle species (leatherbacks, hawksbills, greens, olive ridleys, and loggerheads), and sees large numbers of turtles — particularly leatherbacks — on five beaches in particular: Grand Rivière, Matura, Fishing Pond (in Trinidad), and Stonehaven and Courland (Tobago). Turtles also nest on other popular beaches, including Maracas, Las Cuevas, Mayaro, Manzanilla, Lambeau, Man O’ War Bay, and Pigeon Point. Nature Seekers (natureseekers.org) & the Turtle Village Trust (turtlevillagetrust.org)

Barbados prides itself on being home to one of the Caribbean’s largest hawksbill populations. Nesting mothers often seek out more isolated areas on the south and west coasts of the island from April to November, laying over 100 eggs at a time, and up to six times a season. Barbados Sea Turtle Project: barbadosseaturtles.org

The Cayman Islands’ national symbol is the green turtle, and the efforts of local NGOs have seen nesting numbers increase after populations were nearly decimated in recent decades. Green turtles lay a few times per season; each nest can hold more than 100. Cayman Islands Turtle Centre: (345) 949-3894, info@turtle.ky

Guyana: Shell Beach on the northern coast hosts one of the ocean’s smallest sea turtles: the olive ridley (March–August). Half the adventure is getting to this remote and unspoilt region. Guyana Marine Turtle Conservation Society: guyanamarineconservation.org.

Grenada: loggerheads, greens, hawksbills, and notably leatherbacks visit the island, particularly Levera Beach (April–June). oceanspirits.org

Dominica: spy loggerheads, greens, leatherbacks, and hawksbills, particularly at Rosalie Bay, Bout Sable, Cabana Bay, Wesley, and Calibishie (April–June). DomSeTCO.org

Jamaica: hawksbills are the main attraction here, especially on the north coast (June–August). jamentrust.org/sea-turtles

Florida (USA): loggerheads and four other species are protected by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Marine Turtle programme on the east coast (between Titusville and Fort Lauderdale). Nesting peaks in June and July. myfwc.com/research/wildlife/sea-turtles


Check out our website — caribbean-beat.com — for extended coverage of turtle conservation across the region, and how you can help.

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
The views expressed on this website are those of the the authors and do not reflect those of the Direct Support Grants Programme.