|The Barbados Sea Turtle Project is based at the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill Campus). For more than 25 years, we have been involved in conservation of the endangered marine turtle species that forage around and nest on Barbados through research, education and public outreach as well as monitoring of nesting females, juveniles and hatchlings.
Our vision is to restore local marine turtle populations to levels at which they can fulfill their ecological roles, while still providing opportunities for sustainable use. Barbados is currently home to the second-largest hawksbill turtle nesting population in the Wider Caribbean, with up to 500 females nesting per year. Turtle nesting occurs on most of the beaches around the island, many of which are heavily developed with tourism infrastructure. This presents both challenges and opportunities for sea turtle conservation. Sea turtles are now not only an important component of the biodiversity of Barbados, but have become an integral part of the attraction of a holiday in Barbados. A visitor to Barbados has a high likelihood of seeing at least one nesting hawksbill turtle during any 2-week stay at any one of the hotels on the west and south coasts in the nesting season months of May-October. A SCUBA diving visitor can be assured of seeing at least one hawksbill on the offshore bank reef during any 1-hr dive year round, and a visitor on a catamaran cruise will likely see several green turtles at the “Swim with the Turtles” sites. Barbados can now be viewed as a destination where visitors have an excellent opportunity to view some of Nature’s most charismatic species on the beach and at sea, something that few other countries in the Caribbean, or indeed globally, can offer.
The BSTP operates a 24 hr “Sea Turtle Hotline” to monitor sea turtle sightings and address sea turtle “emergencies”. Hotel staff, visitors and beach users are encouraged to call when they see a nesting or hatching, a nest threatened by high tides, or hatchlings disoriented by lights. They will receive a visit by our trained patrols or obtain procedural guidance over the telephone. Interested persons are encouraged to learn about sea turtles as BSTP staff tag nesting turtles or rescue disoriented hatchlings.
The Barbados Sea Turtle Project monitors the national index nesting beach nightly for 4 months during the nesting season (June-September), operates mobile patrol groups that survey 15 other nesting beaches, and monitors juvenile hawksbills on the island’s west coast bank reef. Upon request, we have produced guidelines and developed printed materials to inform visitors on how to minimize any potential negative impacts of their visits on the turtles at the “Swim with the Turtles” sites. Finally, the BSTP has assisted in productions of sea turtle documentaries for the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Broadcasting Company, BBC, the Discovery Channel, and various internet TV sites (e.g. Travelguru Internet TV). In 2007, the BSTP’s approach to inclusion of visitors in sustainable sea turtle activities resulted in it being listed in Islands magazine’s Blue List as one of the top 100 sustainable tourism activities on islands anywhere in the world.
Prof. Julia Horrocks, is the director of the Barbados Sea Turtle Project. She is the Country Coordinator for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST) in Barbados, and Coordinator of the regional WIDECAST Marine Turtle Tagging Centre. Personnel of the Barbados Sea Turtle Project include post-graduate students, undergraduate students and volunteers. Research currently underway is briefly described on our Conservation page and a list of publications is included on our Publications page.