Sea Turtle Conservation

Baby hawksbill sea turtles

(Eretmochelys imbricata)

Photo credit: ©

Project Goal: Develop capacity to undertake sea turtle conservation in the Dutch Caribbean

Sea turtle conservation has long been a priority for the islands of the Dutch Caribbean. All four species of Caribbean sea turtle were chosen as a flagship species by DCNA because they are not only globally-endangered and charismatic creatures but also because they are a true transboundary species. At its inception, DCNA invested substantially in supporting turtle tracking work on the islands both to gain scientific knowledge about turtle range states as well as a basis for public outreach and education. 

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB), whose mission is to ensure the protection and recovery of Bonaire’s sea turtle populations throughout their range, has been a key partner in these efforts. STCB uses best practices in science and conservation to build knowledge and protection of Bonaire’s sea turtles. They share their knowledge to raise awareness, affect policy and build support for biodiversity protection. DCNA and STCB are proud members of the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST).

Capacity Building
Building capacity in turtle monitoring and outreach and education on the islands is key to the development and implementation of individual programs on each of the Dutch Caribbean Islands.  Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire has been providing a number of DCNA’s local partners with the training that they need to begin or improve turtle monitoring activities. In 2012, a sea turtle workshop was conducted in St. Maarten; members of Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire trained staff and volunteers of St. Maarten Nature Foundation on essential elements of sea turtle monitoring including water surveying, health assessments, tagging and measuring of the local resident sea turtle population.

Green turtle

(Chelonia mydas)

Photo credit: ©
Brenda Kirkby

Monitoring Efforts
Sea turtle activity is being monitored on every island of the Dutch Caribbean to assess population trends as well as nesting and foraging activities and better understand threats to and successes of sea turtle conservation efforts.

  • Aruba: Turtugaruba Foundation monitors sea turtle activity during the year, especially during the nesting season (March – July).
  • Bonaire: Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire conducts standardized in-water surveys and tagging programs to gather information on sea turtles in the waters surrounding Bonaire. During the nesting season (from April to January), STCB staff and volunteers patrol the beaches most used by turtles, recording signs of nesting and hatching, as well as monitoring the safety status of nests. Satellite tracking is also used to track the movements of sea turtles.
  • Curaçao: The development of a monitoring program to asses the number of nesting and in-water sea turtles of Curaçao began in early 2014.
  • St. Eustatius: St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation monitors Green, Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles on Zeelandia Beach and elsewhere on the island. In collaboration with DCNA and the Nature Foundation Sint Maarten, they also do satellite tracking of nesting Green and Hawksbill turtles .
  • St. Maarten: Nature Foundation monitors sea turtle nests on the island’s beaches. Sea Turtle Watch Group, a volunteer program in which volunteers help with beach monitoring, helps encourage community participation.

Finding Innovative Solutions
Projects have focused on finding innovative solutions to the removal of fishing lines and other plastic debris causing threats to our local sea turtles. In January of 2012, STCB launched a new project to clean up discarded fishing gear from Bonaire’s reefs. The Fishing Line Project aims to reduce the amount of fishing line, hooks, nets and other debris found on Bonaire’s coral reefs. In addition, capacity to undertake nest and in-water monitoring has constantly been built.

Educating Future Leaders
Sea turtle lesson books have been developed for Dutch language classes as a more informal approach to get nature and conservation into Dutch Caribbean school curricula. These lesson books were developed with local teachers and proved to be extremely successful on Bonaire. Students enjoy using appealing, new material to learn about their own nature so much that the schools recorded better attendance and better grades on days the sea turtle lesson books were used.

Hawksbill sea turtle

(Eretmochelys imbricata)

Photo credit: © Rudy Van Gelder