|Q: How do I report a turtle activity or turtles in trouble in Barbados?
Call the Turtle Hotline: (246) 230-0142
Q: When do sea turtles nest in Barbados?
Most hawksbill turtles in Barbados nest during the peak season between mid-May through mid to late October. However, nesting has been documented in every month of the year.
The nesting season for leatherback turtles in Barbados is between February and July.
The first record of green turtles nesting in Barbados was in 2005. It is currently believed that their nesting season is the same as that for hawksbills.
Q: Are sea turtles protected?
As of 1998, the Government of Barbados enacted a total moratorium on all sea turtle harvesting. It is completely illegal to catch any species of sea turtle, or possess any turtle product (i.e. meat, shell, eggs) in Barbados. Penalties include fines up to $50,000 Barbados dollars and/or two years in jail. However, each country has its own laws, and in some places it is still legal to harvest sea turtles during certain times of the year.
Q: Why are sea turtles threatened?
Hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles are Critically Endangered, while green turtles are Endangered. The primary cause is over-harvesting by man for the shell, meat and eggs. Tortoiseshell jewellery is made from the hawksbill shell, while canned turtle soup was once made using green turtle meat.
Over the last century, sea turtle populations have significantly declined due to over-exploitation. Population recovery is an extremely slow process. It is estimated that only 1 in every 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood, which is not reached until 25-30 years of age. It is only then that turtles can begin to reproduce. A large number of turtles are also accidentally caught and drowned in fishing nets and in long-line fishing gear.
Nesting beaches are now also under threat. Beachfront developments, including sea walls, buildings, and boulders, limit the spaces available for nesting females to deposit their eggs. This forces the turtles to nest in sub-optimal areas of the beach where entire clutches may be washed away by high tides. Introduced animals such as mongooses, domestic dogs and cats also can dig into nests, eating eggs or hatchlings.
Q: Why should anyone care if turtles become extinct?
Sea turtles all serve an important role as nutrient transporters. They gather the nutrients they need at sea then come onto the beach to nest. When nutrient-rich eggs do not hatch or are eaten by land predators (crabs, etc.), these nutrients pass into land-based ecosystems. Each species also plays a specific role to protect our marine environment:
- Hawksbill turtles help to keep coral reefs healthy by feeding on sea sponges which, if left unchecked, would overgrow and choke reefs.
- Green turtles graze on sea grasses making nutrient-rich new growth available to other grazing species such as the fish caught in the near-shore pot and net fisheries.
- Leatherback turtles help to keep pelagic fish populations healthy by controlling the abundance of jellyfish which, if left unchecked, would decimate populations of fish larvae.
Turtles are also loved by those who visit our island. Tourists love the chance to swim with turtles, see them nest and to see hatchlings make their way into the sea. The chance to interact with sea turtles is one of the many special characteristics that attract visitors to Barbados.