WIDECAST Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan for St. Kitts and Nevis


Material Information

WIDECAST Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan for St. Kitts and Nevis
Physical Description:
Eckert, Karen L. and Thomas D. Honebrink
UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme
Place of Publication:
Kingston, Jamaica
Publication Date:

Record Information

Source Institution:
Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network
Holding Location:
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
System ID:

This item has the following downloads:

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
    Table of Contents
        Page iv
        Page v
    List of acronyms
        Page vi
    List of tables and figures
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
    I. Introduction
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
    II. Status and distribution of sea turtles in St. Kitts and Nevis
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
    III. Stresses on sea turtles in St. Kitts and Nevis
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
    IV. Solutions to stresses on sea turtles in St. Kitts and Nevis
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
    V. Literature cited
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
    Tables and figures
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
    Appendix 1
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
    Back Cover
        Page 117
        Page 118
Full Text

fa S rCaribbean Environment Programme

"j United Nations Environment Programme


Sea Turte Recovery Action Plan

S fori St. Kitts and Nevis


ri. .v'%, X:.

-X ;; i i :~;

W: AY7.


t -F

1AP p" Cp Alrtltn .7... 4.

k >, 4.- .,

N 41 -
.--" .,.,sJt.&.-~ wri4. 1fa~ 4 '&,-wj~r

-M %N411% AA -. tPlbkI pa o1
7 WI, W.
""'`; ;` "'L:'":"w win:


1.. 7i

'''' '';

;5~; a:

Caribbean Environment Programme

UNEP United Nations Environment Programme

Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan
for St. Kitts and Nevis

Karen L. Eckert 1
Thomas D. Honebrink 2
1Executive Director, WIDECAST
2 Conservation Officer, Southeast Peninsula
Land Development and Conservation Board

Karen L. Eckert, Editor

Prepared by:

Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network

CEP Technical Report No. 17



Sea turtle stocks are declining throughout most of the Wider Caribbean region; in some
areas the trends are dramatic and are likely to be irreversible during our lifetimes. According to
the IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre's Red Data Book, persistent over-exploitation, espe-
cially of adult females on the nesting beach, and the widespread collection of eggs are largely
responsible for the Endangered status of five sea turtle species occurring in the region and the
Vulnerable status of a sixth. In addition to direct harvest, sea turtles are accidentally captured in
active or abandoned fishing gear, resulting in death to tens of thousands of turtles annually.
Coral reef and sea grass degradation, oil spills, chemical waste, persistent plastic and other ma-
rine debris, high density coastal development, and an increase in ocean-based tourism have dam-
aged or eliminated nesting beaches and feeding grounds. Population declines are complicated by
the fact that causal factors are not always entirely indigenous. Because sea turtles are among the
most migratory of all Caribbean fauna, what appears as a decline in a local population may be a
direct consequence of the activities of peoples many hundreds of kilometers distant. Thus, while
local conservation is crucial, action is also called for at the regional level.

In order to adequately protect migratory sea turtles and achieve the objectives of CEP's
Regional Programme for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW), The Strategyfor the
Development of the Caribbean Environment Programme (1990-1995) calls for "the development
of specific management plans for economically and ecologically important species", making par-
ticular reference to endangered, threatened, or vulnerable species of sea turtle. This is consistent
with Article 10 of the Cartagena Convention (1983), which states that Contracting Parties shall
"individually or jointly take all appropriate measures to protect ... the habitat of depleted,
threatened or endangered species in the Convention area." Article 10 of the 1991 Protocol to the
Cartagena Convention concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol)
specifies that Parties "carry out recovery, management, planning and other measures to effect the
survival of [endangered or threatened] species" and regulate or prohibit activities having
"adverse effects on such species or their habitats". Article 11 of the SPAW Protocol declares that
each Party "shall ensure total protection and recovery to the species of fauna listed in Annex II".
All six species of Caribbean-occurring sea turtles were included in Annex II in 1991.

This CEP Technical Report is the fifth in a series of Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plans
prepared by the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Recovery Team and Conservation Network
(WIDECAST), an organization comprised of a regional team of sea turtle experts, local Country
Co-ordinators, and an extensive network of interested citizens. The objective of the recovery
action plan series is to assist Caribbean governments in the discharge of their obligations under
the SPAW Protocol, and to promote a regional capability to implement scientifically sound sea
turtle conservation programs by developing a technical understanding of sea turtle biology and
management among local individuals and institutions. Each recovery action plan summarizes
the known distribution of sea turtles, discusses major causes of mortality, evaluates the effect-
tiveness of existing conservation laws, and priorities implementing measures for stock recov-
ery. WIDECAST was founded in 1981 by Monitor International, in response to a recommenda-
tion by the IUCN/CCA Meeting of Non-Governmental Caribbean Organizations on Living Re-
sources Conservation for Sustainable Development in the Wider Caribbean (Santo Domingo, 26-
29 August 1981) that a "Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan should be prepared
... consistent with the Action Plan for the Caribbean Environment Programme." WIDECAST is
an autonomous NGO, partially supported by the Caribbean Environment Programme.

CEP Technical Report No. 17


True to the spirit and structure of the WIDECAST project (which consists of an
international Sea Turtle Recovery Team 1/ and resident Country Coordinators throughout the
Wider Caribbean region), this Action Plan could not have been written without the enthusiasm
and participation of many people over the last three years. First and foremost, the senior author
owes a debt of gratitude to Thomas Honebrink, Peace Corps Volunteer, Conservation Officer for
the Southeast Peninsula Land Development and Conservation Board, and Co-Founder of the
Marine Division of the St. Christopher Heritage Society (SCHS), and to Joan Robinson,
WIDECAST Country Coordinator-Nevis, Curator of the Museum of Nevis History, and
Founding member of the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS).

In addition to input from the WIDECAST Country Coordinators, the personal
knowledge, pertinent literature, and creative thinking provided by Audra Barrett (Assistant
Fisheries Officer), David Robinson (Chief Curator, NHCS), Leonard Huggins (Research
Assistant, NH-CS), and Oliver 'Toms' Wilkes (Cooperatives Officer, Fisheries Division) in Nevis
have been central to the development of this document. Robert Young (Vanier College, Quebec)
and his students are responsible for a wide variety of marine and coastal field studies, conducted
since 1990 under the aegis of the NHCS, which have greatly expanded the ecological database
available for Nevis and as such have contributed meaningfully to this Recovery Action Plan.
Also in Nevis, valuable information and/or programme support has been provided by the Hon.
Malcolm Guisherd (Minister of Agriculture, Housing, Lands and Labour), Edred Ward (Senior
Cooperatives Officer, Division of Fisheries, especially for providing tags from slaughtered sea
turtles), Joseph Wiltshire (Assistant Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Housing,
Lands and Labour), Augustine Merchant (Director, Dept. Agriculture), Ellis Chaderton (SCUBA
Safaris Nevis), Les Windley (Sea Nevis Charter Boats), Lornette Hanley (Assistant Curator,
Nevis Museum of History), Lloydster Parris (Research Assistant, NHCS), Paul Harris (NHCS
Volunteer), the Nevis Environmental Education Committee, and many of the fishermen of Nevis.

David and Joan Robinson, Hyleta Liburd (Chief Education Officer, Department of
Education), Serena Herbert (Science Club, Charlestown Secondary School), Pam Barry
(Manager, Golden Rock Hotel), Sybil Seigfried (resident), and Dr. and Mrs. Adly Maguid
(Owners, Newcastle Marina) arranged for sea turtle slide shows presented by WIDECAST in
several public venues. Sharon Stanley, Brian Zimmerman, and Jim McLaughlin (Peace Corps
Volunteers) integrated the "WIDECAST message" -- sea turtle biology and conservation -- into
the environ-mental curriculum of the Nevis public school system. Many others have supported
the local WIDECAST project; among those most involved with community sea turtle
programmes and media coverage are Valerie Sargeant (Librarian, Nevis Public Library), Evered
Herbert (Mana-ger, VON radio), Thouvia France (VON radio), Mary Spooner (Host, Let's Talk,
VON radio), and Steve Manners (Govt. Information Service; TBN Host, The Week Gone By).
Karen Eckert is grateful to David and Joan Robinson, Robert Young, and Sharon Stanley for
their friendship and generosity in providing housing and transportation during her repeated visits
to Nevis.

In St. Kitts, Joseph Simmonds (Fisheries Officer), Ralph Wilkins (Assistant Fisheries
Officer), Kate Orchard (SCHS Council member; biology and chemistry teacher, St. Teresa

Page ii

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

School), Campbell Evelyn (former Chair, Conservation Commission; conservationist), Charles
Solas (fisherman), Kenneth Samuel and David Howlett (Kenneth's Dive Center), Oliver Spencer
(Old Road Fisherman's Cooperative), Rikki Grober (Island Resources Foundation), Ricky
Pereira (Owner, Turtle Beach Bar & Grill), Diana Honebrink (Peace Corps Volunteer,
Environmental Educator), Jacqueline Cramer-Armony (Founding President, SCHS), and Tim
Sands (Peace Corps Volunteer, Division of Fisheries) provided invaluable input, including
fishing effort, sightings and nesting data, historical perspective, and creative solutions to
contemporary stresses on sea turtles. Karen Eckert is grateful to Maria Bacci (Organization of
American States), Tim Sands, and Tom and Diana Honebrink for their friendship and hospitality
in providing housing and transportation during her repeated visits to St. Kitts.

The authors would also like to express their sincere appreciation to those people who
attended the 22 October 1992 Community Meeting in St. Kitts (hosted by the SCHS Marine
Division) to review and discuss this document. The participants included Campbell Evelyn,
Joseph Simmonds, Oliver Spencer, Tim Sands, Diana Honebrink (affiliations noted above),
Marian Dupre (Ballahoo Restaurant), Peter Dupre (SCHS Marine Division; St. Kitts Boat Club),
Delroy Joseph (Customs Supervisor, Excise Dept.), Arlene Joseph (concerned citizen), Telca
Wallace (concerned citizen), Everett Cozier (Basseterre Fisherman's Cooperative), Steve Shipe
(U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Lee Graham (Basseterre Fisherman's Cooperative), Michael
Embesi (Peace Corps Volunteer, Environmental Educator), Stanley Margolis (Kenneth's Dive
Center), and Clyde James (Cooperatives Officer). Randy Walters (marine biologist) and Vincent
Coker (Conservation Officer, Dept. Agriculture) reviewed the Plan but could not attend the

A special vote of thanks goes to the Estridge Primary School and to Ms. Susanna Lee
(Head Teacher), who cared so much and worked so hard to learn about endangered sea turtles
and to draft a Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan of their own (see Introduction). We also thank
the students of Cayon, Molineux, and Estridge primary schools who conducted interviews and
wrote essays on the sea turtles of St. Kitts (see Appendix I). On a more personal note, TDH
expresses gratitude to his wife Diana for her support and understanding during the long hours of
preparation required to complete this Plan. Finally, the authors speak for all persons who
selflessly gave of their time and expertise to this document in dedicating it to the sea turtles of St.
Kitts/Nevis ... and to the children who will inherit the results of the decisions we make today.

1/ The WIDECAST regional Recovery Team provided impetus for this document and critiqued
earlier drafts. These persons are the following: Lic. Ana Cecilia Chaves (Costa Rica), Dr. Karen
Eckert (USA), Jacques Fretey (France), John Fuller (Antigua), Molly Gaskin (Trinidad), Dr.
Julia Horrocks (Barbados), Maria Teresa Koberg (Costa Rica), Dr. Peter Pritchard (USA), Dr.
James Richardson (USA), and Dr. Georgita Ruiz (Mexico). The IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle
Specialist Group (Dr. Karen Bjorndal, Chair) also provided useful comments on an earlier draft.
Major financial support for WIDECAST has come from Monitor International, The Chelonia
Institute, the UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme, and the U. S. National Marine Fisheries
Service. Special appreciation is due Milton Kaufmann (President of Monitor International and
Founder of WIDECAST) and Robert Truland (Trustee, The Chelonia Institute) for their
unwavering personal commitment to WIDECAST since its inception more than a decade ago.

Page iii

CEP Technical Report No. 17


Preface i
Acknowledgements ii
Table of Contents iv
List of Tables and Figures vii
Abstract (English, Spanish, French) viii



2.1 Caretta caretta, Loggerhead Sea Turtle 6
2.2 Chelonia mydas, Green Sea Turtle 7
2.3 Dermochelys coriacea, Leatherback Sea Turtle 9
2.4 Eretmochelys imbricata, Hawksbill Sea Turtle 11
2.5 Lepidochelys kempii, Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle 12
2.6 Lepidochelys olivacea, Olive Ridley Sea Turtle 13


3.1 Destruction or Modification of Habitat 13
3.2 Disease or Predation 15
3.3 Over-utilisation 16
3.4 Inadequate Regulatory Mechanisms 22
3.5 Other Natural or Man-made Factors 25


4.1 Manage and Protect Habitat 26
4.11 Identify essential habitat 26
4.111 Survey foraging areas 28
4.112 Survey nesting habitat 28
4.12 Develop area-specific management plans 30
4.121 Involve local coastal zone entities 32
4.122 Develop regulatory guidelines 33
4.123 Provide for enforcement of guidelines 36
4.124 Develop educational materials 37
4.13 Prevent or mitigate degradation of nesting beaches 37
4.131 Sand mining 37
4.132 Lights 39
4.133 Beach stabilisation structures 41
4.134 Beach cleaning equipment and vehicular use of beaches 42
4.135 Beach rebuilding projects 43

Page iv

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

4.14 Prevent or mitigate degradation of marine habitat 44
4.141 Dynamiting reefs 44
4.142 Chemical fishing 45
4.143 Industrial discharges 45
4.144 At-sea dumping of garbage 46
4.145 Oil exploration, production, refining, transport 47
4.146 Agricultural run-off and sewage 50
4.147 Anchoring and dredging 51

4.2 Manage and Protect All Life Stages 53
4.21 Review existing local laws and regulations 53
4.22 Evaluate the effectiveness of law enforcement 54
4.23 Propose new regulations where needed 55
4.231 Eggs 55
4.232 Immature turtles 55
4.233 Nesting females 57
4.234 Unprotected species 58
4.24 Augment existing law enforcement efforts 58
4.25 Make fines commensurate with product value 58
4.26 Investigate alternative livelihoods for turtle fishermen 59
4.27 Determine incidental catch and promote the use of TEDs 60
4.28 Supplement reduced populations using management techniques 61
4.29 Monitor stocks 62
4.291 Nests 62
4.292 Hatchlings 64
4.293 Immature and adult turtles 65

4.3 Encourage and Support International Cooperation 65
4.31 CITES 65
4.32 Regional treaties 66
4.33 Subregional sea turtle management 68

4.4 Develop Public Education 69
4.41 Residents 69
4.42 Fishermen 72
4.43 Tourists 73
4.44 Non-consumptive uses of sea turtles to generate revenue 74

4.5 Increase Information Exchange 75
4.51 Marine Turtle Newsletter 75
4.52 Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium (WATS) 75
4.53 WIDECAST 75
4.54 IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group 76
4.55 Workshops on research and management 77
4.56 Exchange of information among local groups 77

Page v

CEP Technical Report No. 17

4.6 Implement Sea Turtle Conservation Programme
4.61 Rationale
4.62 Goals and objectives
4.63 Activities
4.64 Results and Outputs
4.65 Budget





Caribbean Conservation Association
National Conservation and Environment Protection Act
Nevis Environmental Education Committee
Non-government Organization
Nevis Historical and Conservation Society
St. Christopher Heritage Society
South-East Peninsula, St. Kitts
South-East Peninsula Land Development and Conservation Act
United Nations Environment Programme
Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Recovery Team and Conservation Network

Page vi

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...


TABLE 1 98
Assessment of sea turtle nesting activity on the Southeast Peninsula of
St. Kitts, 26 June to 31 July 1989 (from d'Arbeau 1989).

TABLE 2 100
Predators of sea turtle hatchlings on the beaches of the Southeast Pen-
insula, St. Kitts, 23 June to 31 July 1989 (from d'Arbeau 1989).

FIGURE 1 101
The two island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis is situated amongst the
Lesser Antilles in the northeastern Caribbean Sea.

FIGURE 2 102
Selected features and landmarks in St. Kitts and Nevis.

FIGURE 3 103
A guide to the sea turtles of St. Kitts and Nevis.

FIGURE 4 104
The sandy beaches and offshore marine features, including major sea
grass communities and living coral reef, of St. Kitts.

FIGURE 5 105
The sandy beaches of the Southeast Peninsula, St. Kitts.

FIGURE 6 106
The sandy beaches, beach sand mining sites, and offshore marine fea-
tures, including major sea grass communities and living coral reef, of

FIGURE 7 107
Major sand sources in St. Kitts and beach sand mining locations.

Page vii

CEP Technical Report No. 17


Three species of sea turtle, all internationally classified as endangered species, nest on the
beaches of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis. These are the hawksbill (Eretmochelvs
imbricata), green (Chelonia mydas), and leatherback or river turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). In
addition to seasonal nesting, hawksbills and green turtles of varying sizes can be seen throughout
the year feeding in shallow waters. The leatherback is not resident; gravid females arrive each
year for a summer nesting season. A fourth species, the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), is
occasionally observed offshore. The documented harvest of sea turtles in the federation dates
back to 1603 when a work party dispatched to Nevis described a "Tortoyse so big that four men
could not get her into the Boate". The 18th century letters of William Smith declare green turtles
to be "so common that they need no description." There is no doubt that the ubiquitous sea
turtles were an important part of diet and commerce during the centuries of colonial occupation.

Today there are far fewer turtles than there were four or five decades ago. They have
been both netted at sea and killed on the nesting beach. Turtle hunters and observers familiar
with the fishery disagree on the exact number of turtles currently harvested per year, but it
appears likely that 50-100+ turtles, mostly greens and hawksbills, are landed annually on each of
the two islands. The number of nets set and the number of hunters who await gravid
(egg-bearing) females on the nesting beaches is considerably lower than at any time in the past.
The number of part-time turtle fishermen is estimated to be less than ten on each island. The
number of spearfishermen landing sea turtles is growing, however, and this is viewed as a
serious threat. The collection of eggs is unquantified but approaches 100% in some areas. There
is no legislation governing the harvest of turtles or their eggs at the present time, but the draft
Fisheries Regulations of 1992 call for a moratorium on the capture of turtles and the collection of
eggs. Such a moratorium is fully supported by this Recovery Action Plan.

The most significant stress on local turtle populations has been a virtually unregulated
harvest. The consequences of over-harvest are nowhere more evident than on the nesting
beaches. There is a consensus that the beaches once supported many more nests than are seen
today. Too many of the federation's breeding females have been killed and their eggs taken. It is
self-evident that if eggs are not allowed to produce hatchlings, there will not be a next generation
of turtles to lay their own eggs. The reason there are fewer turtles at sea is that the over-harvest
has not been confined to St. Kitts and Nevis. All Caribbean nations have participated. Turtles
born in St. Kitts and Nevis do not remain resident in our waters through the many years (usually
20-35) required to reach sexual maturity. Instead, they travel throughout the region during their
adolescence and return to their natal beaches only when it is time to breed. Thus, the juveniles
feeding offshore in coral reefs and sea grass meadows represent the young produced on nesting
beaches throughout the Caribbean Sea, whereas the females on our nesting beaches were born
here many years ago and migrate "home" every 2-3 years to lay their own eggs.

The objectives of this Recovery Action Plan are to explain the biology of sea turtles, to
provide an overview of the status and distribution of sea turtles in St. Kitts and Nevis, and to
recommend conservation actions designed to promote the recovery of depleted stocks. In addi-

Page viii

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

tion to the protection of turtles and eggs, the preservation of important feeding and nesting
habitats is necessary. A few nesting beaches have been lost in recent decades, mostly to harbour
development, but coming decades will see an unprecedented commercialization of the coastline.
Several large hotels on the Southeast Peninsula and elsewhere are in planning or construction
stages. Offshore, an increase in yacht and cruise ship traffic will mean increased solid waste and
pollution, anchoring, and recreational use of the often fragile seabed (e.g., coral reefs).
Integrated coastal zone planning with an eye to safeguard the precious coastal zone for future
generations is needed. Regulations should include adequate construction setbacks, protection for
coastal vegetation, sewage and waste disposal, moorings and other measures described in this
Recovery Action Plan. In addition to national coastal zone management, improved law
enforcement is necessary. A Division of Environmental Enforcement is recommended.

A five-year national Sea Turtle Conservation Programme is herein proposed. The goals
of the programme are (1) to obtain comprehensive and accurate data on the distribution of turtle
nesting and foraging habitat and (2) to promote the conservation and recovery of remaining sea
turtle stocks. Activities, including habitat and market surveys, management planning, training,
and environmental education, are fully described in the text. In addition to national efforts to
conserve sea turtles, it is essential that St. Kitts and Nevis support international initiatives to
conserve these highly migratory reptiles. In this regard, the Government is encouraged to ratify
CITES, MARPOL, and the UNEP Cartagena Convention (with SPAW Protocol). In summary,
an integrated approach to the continuing decline of sea turtles is needed, including strong
domestic and regional legislation, habitat protection, population monitoring, and enhanced public

In order to ensure that the necessary regulations to safeguard turtles and their habitats
have grassroots community support, user groups (e.g., fishermen), conservationists, government
personnel, restaurant owners, and concerned citizens actively participated in the development of
this Recovery Action Plan. The process of involving the community is essential and we
recommend that full advantage be taken of Town Meetings and the media to increase public
awareness of the plight of the sea turtle and of the island environment in general. The support
and active participation of all citizens is needed if the twenty-first century is to fulfill a promise
of independence and prosperity for the people of St. Kitts and Nevis -- and the hope of survival
to many endangered wildlife species, including sea turtles.

Page ix

CEP Technical Report No. 17


Tres species de tortugas de mar, todas ellas clasificadas internacionalmente como
species en peligro de extinci6n, anidan en las playas de St. Kitts y Nevis. Estas son, la tortuga
carey (Eretmochelys imbricata), la tortuga verde del Atlantico (Chelonia mydas), y la tortuga
tora o de rio (Dermochelys coriacea). Ademas de en la temporada de anidaci6n se pueden ver
tortugas carey y verde de various tamafios durante todo el afio, alimentandose en aguas de poca
profundidad. La tortuga tora no es resident; las hembras gravidas llegan cada afio para la
temporada de anidaci6n de verano. Una cuarta especie, la tortuga de mar (Caretta caretta), se
observa ocasionalmente frente a las costas. El aprovechamiento de las tortugas marinas en la
federaci6n, que se halla documentado, data de 1603 cuando una partida de trabajo enviada a
Nevis describi6 una "Tortuga tan grande que ni cuatro hombres pudieron subirla al bote". Las
cartas de William Smith del Siglo XVIII declaran que las tortugas verdes "son tan comunes que
no necesitan describirse." No hay duda de que las omnipresentes tortugas constituian una parte
important de la dieta y el comercio durante los siglos de ocupaci6n colonial.

Hoy existen much menos tortugas que hace cuarenta o cincuenta afos. Las han cogido
en redes y se han muerto en las playas donde anidan. Los cazadores y los observadores de
tortugas que saben de la pesca, no se ponen de acuerdo sobre el numero exacto de tortugas que
actualmente se aprovechan por afio, pero parece probable que de 50 a mas de 100 tortugas, en su
mayoria verdes y carey aparezcan anualmente en las playas de cada una de las islas. El numero
de redes lanzadas y el numero de cazadores que aguardan las hembras gravidas (portadoras de
huevos) en las playas donde anidan es considerablemente menor que en cualquier epoca pasada.
La cantidad de pescadores de tortugas de medio tiempo, se estima en menos de diez en cada isla.
Sin embargo, la cantidad de pescadores con harp6n que desembarcan tortugas marinas esta
aumentando, y esto se ve como una seria amenaza. La recogida de huevos no se ha cuantificado,
pero se aproxima al 100 por ciento en algunas areas. En la actualidad no existe legislaci6n que
rija el aprovechamiento de las tortugas o de sus huevos, pero el borrador de las Reglas de
Pesquerias de 1992, exige una moratoria en la capture de tortugas y la recogida de huevos. Tal
moratoria se encuentra apoyada plenamente por este Plan de Acci6n para el Rescate de la Tortu-
ga Marina.

La sobrecarga mas significativa en las poblaciones de tortugas locales ha sido un
aprovechamiento, virtualmente no regulado. Las consecuencias del aprovechamiento excesivo se
hallan en ningun lugar mas evidence que en las playas de anidaci6n. Es de consenso general el
que las playas acogieron, una vez, muchos mas nidos que los que actualmente se ven. Se ha
matado demasiadas hembras gravidas de la federaci6n o se les ha quitado sus huevos. Es
evidence que si no se permit que los huevos produzcan ejemplares j6venes, no habra una
pr6xima generaci6n de tortugas que ponga sus propios huevos. La raz6n por la que hay menos
tortugas en el mar es que el aprovechamiento excesivo no se limita a St. Kitts y Nevis. Todas las
naciones del Caribe han participado. Las tortugas que nacen en St. Kitts y Nevis no permanecen
residents en nues-tras aguas a traves de los muchos afios necesarios (20-35) para alcanzar la
madurez sexual. En cambio, durante su adolescencia viajan a todo lo largo de la region y
regresan a sus playas nata-les solo cuando es tiempo para reproducirse. Por consiguiente, los
juveniles que se alimentan en los arrecifes coralinos y los pastizales marines representan tortugas

Page x

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

producidas en las playas de anidaci6n a lo largo del Mar Caribe, mientras que las hembras en
nuestras playas de anidaci6n, nacieron aqui hace muchos afios y migran "a casa" cada 2 o 3 afios
para poner sus propios huevos.

Los objetivos de este Plan de Acci6n son explicar la biologia de las tortugas marinas,
proporcionar una panoramica de la situaci6n y la distribuci6n de las tortugas marinas en St. Kitts
y Nevis, y recomendar acciones para la conservaci6n, disefiadas para fomentar la recuperaci6n
de reserves mermadas. Ademas de la protecci6n de tortugas y huevos, se hace necesario la
conservaci6n de importantes habitats nidos y de alimentaci6n. En decadas recientes se han
perdido unas pocas playas de anidaci6n, en su mayor parte por el desarrollo de los puertos, pero
los decenios venideros veran una comercializaci6n sin precedentes de la faja costera. Various
grandes hotels de la Peninsula Sudoriental y de otras parties, se encuentran en las etapas de
planificaci6n o construcci6n. En mar abierto, un aumento en el trafico de barcos y yates
significara un aumento en los desechos s6lidos y la contaminaci6n, el fondeo y el uso del lecho
marino (ej. arrecifes coralinos), a menudo fragil. Es necesaria la planificaci6n integrada de las
zonas costeras con vistas a salvaguardar las preciosas costas para las generaciones futuras. Los
reglamentos debieran incluir la construcci6n de edificaciones de blindaje apropiadas, protecci6n
de la vegetaci6n costera, eliminaci6n de desechos y de aguas residuales, amarraderos y otras
medidas que se described en este Plan de Acci6n para el Rescate de la Tortuga Marina. Ademas
de la ordenaci6n de la zona costera, es necesario una mejor ejecuci6n de la ley. Se recomienda la
creaci6n de una Divisi6n para la Observancia Forzosa de las Leyes Ambientales.

Se propone aqui un Programa de Conservaci6n de la Tortuga Marina a nivel national, de
cinco afios de duraci6n. Las metas del program son (1) obtener informaci6n exhaustive y
precisa sobre la distribuci6n de los habitats donde anidan y donde se alimentan y (2) fomentar la
conservaci6n y la recuperaci6n de las reserves de tortugas restantes. Las actividades, que
comprenden studios de mercado y de habitat, planificaci6n del manejo, capacitaci6n, y
educaci6n ambiental, se hallan descritas completamente en el texto. Ademas de los esfuerzos
nacionales para conservar las tortugas marinas, es esencial que St. Kitts y Nevis apoyen las
iniciativas internacionales para conservar estos reptiles altamente migratorios. A este respect,
se anima al Gobiemo a ratificar los acuerdos de CITES, el Convenio de Cartagena del PNUMA
(con el Protocolo de SPAW), y MARPOL. En resume, es necesario un enfoque integral del
descenso continue de las tortugas marinas, que comprenda una fuerte legislaci6n national y
regional, la protecci6n de los habitats, el monitoreo de la poblaci6n y un aumento en la
concientizaci6n public.

Para asegurar que las regulaciones necesarias para salvaguardar las tortugas y sus habitats
tengan el apoyo popular de la comunidad, grupos de usuarios (ej: pescadores), conservacionistas,
funcionarios del gobierno, propietarios de restaurants y ciudadanos preocupados participaron en
la elaboracion de este Plan de Accion para el Rescate de la Tortuga Marina. El process por el
que se involucra a la comunidad es esencial y recomendamos que se aproveche tanto las
reuniones del ayuntamiento como los medios de comunicaci6n para aumentar la concientizaci6n
public de la defense de la tortuga marina y en general, del medio ambiente de la isla. Se
necesita el apoyo y la participaci6n active de todos los ciudadanos si para el Siglo XXI se quiere
cumplir la promesa de independencia y prosperidad para el pueblo de St. Kitts y Nevis -- y la
esperanza de supervivencia para muchas species silvestres en peligro, incluso las tortugas

Page xi

CEP Technical Report No. 17


Trois especes de tortues de mer, toutes classes comme des especes menacees, pondent
leurs oeufs sur les plages de St. Kitts et Nieves. I1 s'agit de la tortue cahouanne (Eretmochelvs
imbricata), la tortue verte (Chelonia mydas) et la tortue cuir ou tortue de riviere (Dermochelys
coriacea). Les tortues cahouannes et les tortues vertes de tailles differentes ne se remarquent pas
uniquement pendant la saison de la ponte, mais egalement pendant l'annee lorsqu'elles
s'alimentent dans les eaux peu profondes. La tortue cuir n'est pas resident; les femelles gravides
arrivent chaque annee pour faire leurs nids pendant l'ete. Une quatrieme espece, la tortue a
ecailles, (Caretta caretta) se remarque de temps en temps au large. D'apres la documentation la
capture de tortues de mer dans la federation remote a 1603, date a laquelle un group de travail
envoy a Nevis a parole d'une "tortue si grande que quatre hommes n'ont pas pu la mettre dans le
bateau." William Smith, dans des lettres ecrites au 18eme siecle a declare que "les tortues vertes
[etaient] si grandes qu'elles depassent toute description." I1 n'y a aucun doute que les tortues de
mer toujours presentes representaient une parties important du regime alimentaire et du
commerce pendant les siecles d'occupation colonial.

Aujourd'hui, il y a beaucoup moins de tortues qu'il y a quatre ou cinq decennies. Elles
ont ete capturees en mer aussi bien que sur les plages pendant leur ponte. Les chasseurs aussi
bien que les observateurs au courant de ces captures ne sont pas du meme avis quant au nombre
exact de tortues qui sont capturees chaque annee; il semble neanmoins qu'entre 50 et 100 tortues
environ, vertes et cahouannes pour la plupart, sont prises chaque annee sur chacune des deux
iles. Le nombre de filets places et le nombre de chasseurs qui attendent les femelles gravides sur
les plages est beaucoup plus bas que dans le passe. Le nombre de personnel qui chassent des
tortues a temps partiel est estime a moins de 10 sur chaque ile. Neanmoins, le nombre de
pecheurs2Dharponneurs capturant des tortues est en hausse et cette situation est considered
comme menacante. La collect d'oeufs ne peut pas 6tre chiffree, mais s'eleve a 100% dans
certaines zones. I1 n'existe actuellement aucune legislation interdisant la capture des tortues ou
de leurs oeufs n'existe; neanmoins la Reglementation de 1992 en matiere de peche appelle a un
moratoire sur la capture des tortues et la collect de leurs oeufs. Le present Plan d'action pour la
sauvegarde des tortues de mer appuie pleinement ce moratoire.

La capture non reglementee constitute la plus forte pression exercee sur les populations
locales de tortues. Les plages ou pondent les tortues portent le plus grand nombre de traces de
surexploitation. I1 n'y a aucun doute que les plages accueillaient beaucoup plus de nids
qu'aujourd'hui. Trop de femelles parmi les populations de tortues dans la federation ont ete tuees
et leurs oeufs pris. I1 est clair que si l'on empeche la reproduction des tortues par les oeufs, il n'y
aura pas de nouvelle generation de tortues pour pondre a son tour. I1 y a moins de tortues en mer
car la surexploitation ne s'est pas limited a St. Kitts et Nieves. Tous les pays des Caraibes y ont
participe. Les tortues nees a St. Kitts et Nieves ne restent pas dans nos eaux pendant toute la
period necessaire (20 a 35 ans) pour atteindre leur maturity sexuelle. Elles voyagent dans la
region pendant leur adolescence et ne retournent a leurs plages natales que lorsqu'elles sont
prates a se reproduire. Les jeunes qui se trouvent sur nos plages y sont nees il y a plusieurs
annees et reviennent "a la maison" tous les deux a trois ans pour pondre leurs propres oeufs.

Page xii

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

Le present Plan d'action pour la sauvegarde des tortues a pour objectifs d'expliquer la
biologie des tortues de mer, de fournir une vue d'ensemble sur l'etat et la distribution des tortues
de mer a St. Kitts et Nieves, et de proposer des actions de preservation visant a retablir les
populations qui ont ete diminuees. En plus de la protection des tortues et de leurs oeufs, il est
necessaire de preserver les important habitats d'alimentation et de reproduction. Quelques
plages utilisees pour la reproduction ont ete perdues au course des annees recentes, df en
particulier au developpement des ports et au course des decennies a venir, l'on assistera a une
commercialization sans precedent de la zone c6tiere. Plusieurs grands hotels sont en voie de
planification ou de construction dans la Peninsule sud-est et ailleurs. Une augmentation de la
circulation des yachts et des bateaux de croisiere engendra une augmentation des dechets et de la
pollution, de l'ancrage et de l'utilisation, a des fins de loisirs, des fonds de mer souvent fragiles
(des recifs coralliens, par example). La planification integree de la zone c6tiere est indispensable
pour sauvegarder l'importante zone c6tiere pour les generations futures. La reglementation
devrait inclure des c6ntroles adequats sur la construction, la protection de la vegetation c6tiere,
l'evacuation des eaux usees et des dechets, l'ancrage et d'autre measures decrites dans le present
Plan d'action de sauvegarde. En plus de la gestion de la zone c6tiere national, il faudrait
envisager une amelioration de l'application par voie judiciaire. Il est recommande de creer une
Section pour l'application de la loi de l'environnement.

Ce document propose un Programme quinquennal pour la preservation des tortues de
mer. II a pour objectifs 1) d'obtenir des donnees completes et precises sur la distribution des
habitats des tortues pour la reproduction et l'alimentation et 2) de promouvoir la protection et la
sauvegarde des populations de tortues de mer restantes. Le texte fournit le detail des activities, y
compris des etudes du march et des habitats, la planification de la gestion, la formation et
l'education environnementale. En plus des efforts pour preserver les tortues de mer, St. Kitts et
Nieves devrait appuyer les initiatives internationales visant a proteger ces reptiles tries
migrateurs. A cet regard, il est vivement recommande au Governement de ratifier les
Conventions de CITES, MARPOL et la Convention de Carthagene du PNUE (y compris son
Protocole SPAW). En bref, une approche integree est necessaire pour combattre le declin des
populations de tortues, y compris, une legislation national et regional solide, la protection des
habitats, la surveillance des populations et une plus grande sensibilisation du public.

Afin de s'assurer de l'appui au niveau de la communaute pour la mise en place de la
reglementation necessaire pour sauvegarder les tortues et leurs habitats, les groups d'utilisateurs
(les pecheurs, par example), les ecologistes, les responsables gouvernementaux, les restaurateurs
et des citoyens interesses ont participe activement a l'elaboration du present Plan d'action de
sauvegarde. Il est indispensable de faire participer la communaute dans ces efforts et nous
proposons que l'on profit au maximum des reunions municipales et des medias pour sensibiliser
le public au problem particulier de la tortue de mer et a celui de l'ecologie de l'ile plus general.
L'appui et la participation active de tous les citoyens est necessaire pour reliever le defi du 21eme
siecle, un defi d'independance et de prosperity pour le people de St. Kitts et Nieves ainsi que
d'espoir de survive pour les especes sauvages menacees, don't les tortues de mer.

Page xiii

CEP Technical Report No. 17

Page xiv

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...


St. Christopher and Nevis (hereafter, St. Kitts/Nevis) is a two island nation in the north-
eastern Caribbean Sea comprised of St. Kitts (176 km2; 1715'N, 6245'W) and Nevis (93 km2;
1710'N, 62035'W) situated three km to the southeast (Figures 1 and 2). The written history of
the islands begins in 1493 with the accounts of Christopher Columbus, who claimed the islands
for Spain. Spain made no attempt to colonize them, however, and Carib dominion lasted until
the early 17th century when resource-hungry northern Europeans descended on the Eastern
Caribbean in force. The 1600's were characterized by the massacre and enslavement of the
native Caribs by the English and French, and decades of intermittent colonial warfare for control
of the fertile islands. The English were ultimately triumphant and enjoyed a century of
prosperity based on sugar plantations and slavery. Fluctuating market conditions after 1820 and
labour problems arising from slave emancipation in 1838 brought the era to a close, but sugar
continued to dominate the local economy. The last Nevisian sugar mill shut down in 1958 and
the last commercial crop was harvested in 1969 (Richardson, 1983). Sugar continues to
contribute to the Kittitian economy, along with tourism, construction, light manufacturing, and
local agriculture and fishing (CCA, 1991). The two islands became an independent nation in
September 1983. The most recent national census reported 9,130 persons in Nevis (May 1991)
and 41,870 persons in St. Kitts (mid-year 1990).

The social and economic history of the islands has had a profound effect on the
environment, including sea turtles and their habitats. Vast areas of reef deteriorated over many
decades as pieces of coral were collected for refinement into lime, timber was cut to prepare the
land for agriculture (resulting in upland erosion, sediment-laden runoff, and siltation of the
nearshore marine zone), and runoff laden with agricultural chemicals found its way to the sea.
More recently, coral reefs have been destroyed by anchoring and beaches have been lost to or
degraded by sand mining, coastal development, increasing visitation, and natural disasters. Sea
turtles themselves have been harvested for two millennia or more. Preliminary excavations of 21
early settlements in Nevis reveal occasional sea turtle bones in sites dating from 200 BC to 1500
AD (Samuel Wilson, University of Texas, pers. comm., 1991). The first written account of a
visit to Nevis described an abundance of turtles. According to Hubbard (1992), Captain
Bartholemew Gilbert of Plymouth, England, sailed to Nevis with a work party of 20 men and
boys for the purpose of cutting Lignum vitae wood. An entry penned on 19 June 1603 stated,
"This day in the Evening some went with the Boate unto the shore, and brought on board a
Tortoyse so big that four men could not get her into the Boate but tied her fast by one legge
unto the Boate, and so towed her to the ship, when they had her by the ship, it was no easie
matter to get her on board. ...This day at night we opened our Tortoyse, which had in her about
500 Egges, excellent sweet meat, and so is the whole fish."

There were so many sea turtles in both Nevis and St. Kitts that Gilbert's crew complained
that when they cast nets for fish, turtles were continually caught in them. The ubiquitous sea
turtles caused the nets to burst and allowed the fish to escape (Hubbard, 1992). Smith (1745)
wrote, "Green [sea turtles] . are so common that they need no description". Nearly a century
later, a 1698 Act regulated the prices of fresh provisions, including fresh turtle, at 61/2d per pound
(Gordon, 1985). Today the harvest of both turtles and eggs continues, although by all accounts
there are far fewer turtles than there used to be. Four species are found in local waters.

Page 1

CEP Technical Report No. 17

They are the green (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), leatherback (Dermo-
chelys coriacea) and, rarely, the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) (Figure 3). Long-time residents
remember the British custom of the Town Crier announcing the catch of a turtle and its
impending slaughter for market. Mr. Douglas Yearwood recalled this rhyme as he had heard it
as a young boy growing up in St. Kitts:

Fine and fat, fine and fat --
Green-back turtle will be slaughtered in the public market
tomorrow morning, at J. W. Adam's stall.
Fine and fat, fine and fat --
Six pounds for one dollar,
Ready cash, Noooo credit!

The catch of a turtle was not an everyday occurrence, and the practice of announcing the kill
served to alert the community that the delicacy would soon be available. Following the
enactment of conservation legislation in 1948, the habit of publicly announcing the catch served
the additional purpose of discouraging fishermen from bringing turtles in illegally during the
closed season. Cecil Byron, now Chief Magistrate in Nevis, recalls clearly a similar chant recited
in Nevis when sea turtles were to be offered in the public market. The meat was cheaper than
beef and comparable in price to pork and fish. In the 1960's the public announcements were
discarded as "colonial and old-fashioned" (Douglas Yearwood, pers. comm., 1992).

While the Town Crier was familiar in urban areas, such as Basseterre, the catch of a turtle
was not publicly announced in more rural areas of St. Kitts or Nevis. A turtle was not considered
unusual in the coastal villages; indeed, turtles were typically part of a fisherman's haul. Ralph
Wilkins (Assistant Fisheries Officer), who grew up in rural Sandy Point (St. Kitts) in the
1950-60's, recalls that it was commonplace to store sea turtles communally beneath those houses
in the village that were constructed on stilts. Turtles were butchered as buyers were available.
The Sunday morning meal was traditionally one of turtle meat and eggs, the latter rolled in flour
and spices and fried into fritters. Similarly, turtle fishermen and older residents in Nevis confirm
that the practice of "stockpiling" turtles under elevated houses or other usable structures was the
norm. The turtles were common and it was not atypical to bring in more than could be
immediately consumed. They would survive many days on their backs if kept shaded. There
appears to be a general consensus amongst knowledgeable residents that the 1970's brought a
noticeable decline in stocks, both at sea and on the nesting beaches. Long-time divers agree that
turtles at sea are today both fewer and smaller. The beaches of the Southeast Peninsula were
described to the authors as "desolate" compared to the number of eggs laid there 20 years ago.

It is unfortunate that there are no historical records available regarding the number of
fishermen involved in the turtle fishery or their annual catch. In a report prepared for the Second
Western Turtle Symposium, Wilkins and Barrett (1987) concluded that relatively few fishermen
had actively pursued sea turtles in recent years; of roughly 650 active fishermen, "only about 40"
were engaged in the turtle industry at the time of their writing. Barrett (1987) reported the total
catch in 1986-87 to be about 110 turtles (mainly greens and hawksbills) and the average weight
of turtles landed to be about 65 lb (30 kg). The following year, during the 1987-88 open season,
only "eight fishermen [in Nevis were] directly engaged in the [turtle] fishing, operating 10 nets

Page 2

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

specifically for this purpose". The catch that year (47 turtles, mostly female hawksbills) was low
(Barrett, 1988). There are no comparable data for St. Kitts. From interviews conducted during
the development of this Recovery Action Plan, the authors estimate that the catch may approach
100 turtles per year in St. Kitts and that this has been the case for most of the 1980's. While
there are relatively few "turtle fishermen", most likely less than 10, an increasing number of
spear-fishermen are targeting turtles whenever the opportunity arises.

In the past, most turtles were captured in nets designed to ensnare them. The nets ranged
from 50-75 feet in length and 7-10 feet deep, with a mesh size of 8-10 inches. Some turtles were
taken during nesting. Some turtle fishermen claim that by watching the sky, such as for
"pitching stars", they could predict when a turtle was likely to nest. Today the tradition of
staying up all night waiting to capture egg-bearing turtles on the nesting beach continues in both
St. Kitts and Nevis, especially in the "turtle villages" (e.g., Sandy Point, Cayon, Keys) of St.
Kitts. Eggs are routinely collected on both islands. It is widely claimed that virtually every egg
is harvested and either shared with friends or, more rarely, sold. Turtles are also taken from the
sea. Large-mesh turtle nets are regularly set by Nevisian fishermen in Nevisian waters and in the
bays of the Southeast Peninsula (Audra Barrett, Assistant Fisheries Officer, pers. comm., 1992).
Turtle nets are rarely set by Kittitian fishermen. A significant number of fishermen and
recreational divers take turtles opportunistically, in and out of season, by spearing. The
opportunistic take is certain to be higher than the directed take at the present time. Many of
those captured are under-sized (turtles less than 20 lb (9 kg) are protected; see section 4.21).

According to Kenneth Samuel, native Kittitian, former turtle hunter and long-time diver,
the hawksbill turtle is becoming rare in St. Kitts, at least in Caribbean (south shore) waters. The
few individuals once seen around the Talata wreck in Basseterre Harbour were lost about three
years ago when a local fishermen set his nets on the wreck. Samuel knows of only one site (the
River Taw wreck) where they have been regularly seen in recent years. Other divers and
fishermen contend that there are several shallow reef sites where hawksbills are observed. No
one, however, disputes a serious decline in numbers over the course of recent decades. Twenty
years ago, hunters would let a female nest up to six times on South Friar's Beach before killing
her "and the attending male" (K. Samuel, pers. comm., 1992). In contrast, not a single nest was
reported on South Friar's Beach from 29 June-12 August 1992. When Samuel became involved
in dive-tourism and realized the extent to which marine resources were deteriorating, he gave up
turtle hunting. Similarly, Charles Solas recalls that in years past he had his choice of six or more
leatherbacks per night on the Atlantic beaches of St. Kitts; now many nights go by during the
nesting season before a female comes ashore. There are beaches on both islands where nesting
occurred in the past, but no longer. Today turtle hunting is largely a past-time, a cultural
tradition, for participating fishermen. There are no full-time turtle fishermen.

From 1948-1992, regulations were in force to regulate the harvest of sea turtles. The
Turtle Ordinance of 1948 protected turtles less than 20 lb (9 kg) and prohibited the killing, sale
or possession of any turtle product between 1 June and 30 September. During the open season
the meat of both hawksbill and green turtles was sold mostly to hotel restaurants; the shells were
often used for wall decorations or jewelry. Today most restaurants refuse to buy turtle meat,
some in deference to the endangered status of local and regional populations. There is a limited
market on St. Kitts for oil rendered from the leatherback, which is used for medicinal purposes.

Page 3

CEP Technical Report No. 17

Oil in the possession of Charles Solas was selling for EC$ 11-12 per bottle in the summer of
1992. There is apparently no market for leatherback meat or oil in Nevis. Green and hawksbill
meat is consumed locally or exported to neighboring islands (section 3.3). In contrast to the
situation prior to the 1970's when the turtle fishery was a major source of income for some
fishermen, there are no fishermen at the present time that depend solely or principally on sea
turtles or their eggs for their livelihood. Interview data suggest that monies derived from turtles
comprise less than 10% of a fisherman's income.

It is clear that the days of abundance are over. Fishermen alive today remember a time
when ocean resources of all kinds seemed infinite. This is no longer the case, not with fishes,
not with lobsters, not with turtles. It will not be easy for micro-states like St. Kitts/Nevis to meet
the challenges of the twenty first century, but one thing is certain -- if we do not actively pursue a
vision of the future that includes native wildlife, then the islands we pass to our children will be
impoverished of spirit and weakened of potential. The future of our now endanger-ed sea turtles
currently rests in the hands of a few hunters who are exterminating them. If we do nothing as a
government or as a community to improve the economic status of our fishermen and to educate
ourselves not, for instance, to consume turtle eggs, then the turtles will surely be exterminated in
our lifetimes. What will St. Kitts/Nevis look like in thirty years? It seems like a long time, but
in fact it represents but a single generation for a sea turtle. Will there still be sandy beaches
suitable for incubating eggs? Healthy coral reefs? Clean water? The time for decision -- and
action -- is now.

This Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan is dedicated to the next generation, to a future that
includes both economic prosperity for people and the survival of sea turtles. Much of the general
background narrative was drawn from the recently completed Country Environmental Profile for
St. Kitts and Nevis (CCA, 1991) and from the remarkable volume of documentation compiled in
1989 for the Southeast Peninsula Land Development and Conservation Board. The Profile was
prepared under the aegis of the Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA) with technical
support from the Island Resources Foundation, the St. Christopher Heritage Society (SCHS), and
the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (NHCS). The Southeast Peninsula reports were
prepared by a variety of experts and made possible by a grant from the U. S. Agency for
International Development. Both the Profile and detailed information now available on the
natural resources of the Southeast Peninsula constitute major contributions to the literature
available to local policy-makers, who must make increasingly difficult decisions balancing the
long-term requirements of ecology and economy.

Similarly, but with a much more focused agenda, this comprehensive Sea Turtle
Recovery Action Plan is designed to provide policy-makers and non-government groups with
detailed information requisite to make informed decisions. This document, tailored specifically
to the circumstances of St. Kitts and Nevis, is one of a series of Recovery Action Plans
developed by the WIDECAST project. It was written in collaboration with the WIDECAST
network in St. Kitts/Nevis and with the support of a regional team of sea turtle experts. Joan
Robinson (Curator, Museum of Nevis History) and Tom Honebrink (Conservation Officer, SEP
Land Development and Conservation Board) are the WIDECAST Country Coordinators [N.B.
Honebrink, a Peace Corps Volunteer, will be replaced as project coordinator in St. Kitts at the
end of his tour in mid-1993; a member of the SCHS will be selected to fill the position]. Our in-

Page 4

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

tentions in developing this Action Plan are to (1) summarize the status and distribution of local
sea turtle populations, (2) examine threats to their survival, and (3) recommend conservation
actions to be taken on their behalf. The consensus is that sea turtles in St. Kitts/Nevis are fewer
today than at any time during the twentieth century. In order to promote the survival of re-
maining stocks, a national Sea Turtle Conservation Programme is herein proposed (section 4.6).

Before proceeding with the main body of the text, the authors would like to give special
recognition to the fifth and sixth grade students at Estridge Primary School in St. Kitts. Their
environmental studies teacher, Peace Corps Volunteer Diana Honebrink, devoted class time in
October 1992 to a discussion of sea turtle biology and the concept of a national recovery plan for
endangered sea turtles. The students then wrote a Recovery Action Plan of their own. They
worked together in small groups, each with a specific section of the plan as their responsibility.
The following text, entitled Estridge Primary School Recovery Action Plan for Sea Turtles in St.
Kitts and Nevis, reflects a remarkable grasp of the subject matter. It also eloquently reminds us
that we do not inherit the earth from our parents, we only borrow it from our children.

INTRODUCTION: The sea turtles are dying out and soon they will be ex-
tinct. People are killing them for their meat and shells, and sometimes kill-
ing them for fun. People also take the female turtle's eggs. If people take the
eggs all the time, soon all turtles will die out. People are killing the big
leatherback turtles so they can make oil. We need to save the turtles so that
their populations will increase.

BIOLOGY: Green turtles live in the sea. They eat sea grass, are coloured
yellow and green, sleep in coral reefs, and do not have a pointed face like the
hawksbill turtle does. Hawksbill turtles live in the sea. They have a very
funny-shaped nose and a beak like a hawk. They eat all kinds of different sea
things. Leatherbacks live in the sea. They have a soft back and eat jellyfish.

THREATS TO SEA TURTLES: The worst threats are (1) killing the tur-
tles so that soon there will be no more of them, (2) taking the eggs so that no
young will hatch, (3) destroying the sea turtle's habitat so that there will not
be any place for them to live, (4) throwing garbage into the sea and then the
sea turtles they might eat the garbage and become extinct, (5) poisoning the
sea with oil, (6) troubling the young turtles after the eggs hatch.

turtles -- please stop killing the turtles when they come to lay their eggs and
protect all ages of sea turtles, including the eggs; don't trouble the eggs. (2)
Protect important habitat -- stop polluting the water, stop driving your vehi-
cle on the sand, stop taking away the sand from the beach, put signs on the
beaches that say "Please stop digging up the sand", stop building hotels on
the beaches, put signs near the sea that say "Don't pull up the sea grass", don't
throw garbage in the sea because it can harm sea turtles, don't throw oil in the
sea water because it can kill sea turtles, don't dig in the sand because there
can be eggs in the sand and you can destroy the eggs.

Page 5

CEP Technical Report No. 17

IMPLEMENTING THE RECOVERY PLAN: We could tell one another
like our friends, mother and father, families and neighbours. If you want to
tell the whole world, you could call on a telephone, or write a letter or an ar-
ticle for a magazine or newspaper, or go to everyone's houses, or appear on
television. The Honorable Roy Jones [Constituency Representative] and the
policemen should come and talk to the people of St. Kitts and Nevis and tell
them to help us with the sea turtles. Tell them -- "Don't trouble their eggs,
don't cut off their flippers, and if you trouble their eggs all the time there will
be less turtles. Also, don't take them home as pets." If we tell people the
first time, they won't agree with us. But if they don't agree with us, we could
go on telling them and explaining to them that we want the sea turtles to live
always. Then maybe they will agree with us.


2.1 Caretta caretta, Loggerhead Sea Turtle

There are no indigenous common names applied to this species; the preferred name is
"loggerhead". The loggerhead turtle is recognized by its large head, thick, somewhat tapered
carapace (=shell), brown and gold or reddish-brown colouration, and characteristically heavy
encrustation of invertebrate epifauna (especially barnacles). The large head and strong jaws, for
which the species was named, are necessary adaptations to a diet of mollusks and hard-shelled
crabs; tunicates, fishes, and plants are also eaten (Dodd, 1988). Adults attain a straight carapace
length of 120 cm and weigh up to 200 kg (440 lb) (Pritchard et al., 1983). There are typically
five pairs of lateral scutes (large scales) on the shell (Figure 3).

The species has a wide oceanic distribution; in the Atlantic Ocean individuals have been
sighted as far north as Newfoundland (Squires, 1954) and northern Europe (Brongersma, 1972)
and as far south as Argentina (Frazier, 1984). Nesting grounds are often located in temperate
latitudes, with the greatest numbers of nesting females recorded along the Atlantic coast of
Florida (USA) and Masirah Island (Oman). Nesting is also reported from various islands of the
Greater and Lesser Antilles (although firm records are not always available), the Caribbean
coasts of Mexico and Central America, and the Atlantic coast of South America from Venezuela
to Brazil, as summarized by Dodd (1988). The greatest threat to the large breeding colonies in
the USA is drowning in shrimp trawls (U. S. National Research Council, 1990).

It is generally conceded that loggerheads do not nest in St. Kitts/Nevis, but "an oc-
casional nesting loggerhead" on the Southeast Peninsula was reported by Campbell Evelyn in
d'Arbeau (1989). Individuals are sometimes seen offshore, but are rarely captured. Meylan
(1983) reported that "the few individuals that have been seen were immature." One was reported
to have been caught inside the reef at Dieppe Bay, and another off Key Ghaut (St. Kitts). The
fishermen of Nevis periodically report "strange turtles" which may be loggerheads (A. Barrett,
pers. comm., 1992). The species is considerably rarer than either the green turtle or hawksbill.

The meat is presumably eaten when available. There are no population estimates.

Page 6

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

2.2 Chelonia mydas, Green Sea Turtle

Local common names for the species include "green turtle" and "green-back". The green
turtle is recognized by a round, blunt beak with serrated cutting edges, one pair of enlarged
scales between the eyes, and four pairs of lateral carapace scutes that do not overlap as they do
on the hawksbill (cf. section 2.4) (Figure 3). The shell colour is light to dark brown, sometimes
shaded with olive, with radiating wavy or mottled markings of darker colour or with large
blotches of dark brown. It is generally devoid of barnacles. The plastron (=belly plate) is
whitish or light yellow (Carr, 1952). Adults can attain weights of 230 kg (500 lb) (Pritchard et
al., 1983) and generally measure 95-120 cm in straight carapace length (nuchal notch to posterior
tip); a mean size of 100.2 cm (n=2107) is reported from the Caribbean nesting beach at
Tortuguero, Costa Rica (Bjorndal and Carr, 1989). Audra Barrett measured seven carapaces
from young green turtles killed on Nevis in 1986; they averaged 68 cm total curved carapace
length (range 57-75 cm) (Wilkins and Barrett, 1987). Individuals of varying sizes are present in
the waters surrounding St. Kitts/Nevis throughout the year.

It is quite certain that individual green turtles do not remain in local waters throughout
their lives. Hatchlings emerge from their nests, scurry to the sea, orient offshore in a swimming
frenzy that persists over a period of days, and ultimately enter an offshore convergence or weed
line. It is well known, for example, that Sargassum seaweed rafts shelter hatchling green turtles
and also harbour a diverse, specialized fauna, including many kinds of little fishes, crustaceans,
worms, mollusks, tunicates, and coelenterates; these may provide food for the young turtles
(Carr, 1987a). The turtles remain epipelagic (surface dwelling in the open sea) for an unknown
period of time (perhaps 1-3 years) before taking up residence in continental shelf habitats.

Upon leaving the open sea existence that characterises their earliest years, green turtles
become herbivores and remain so for the rest of their lives (Bjomdal, 1985). In the Caribbean
Sea, green turtles feed primarily on the sea grass Thalassia testudinum (Bjorndal, 1982),
commonly referred to as "turtle grass". Field studies indicate that individual turtles maintain
feeding "scars" by returning to the same area of sea grass meadow to forage each day (Ogden et
al., 1980, 1983). These scars, or grazing plots, are maintained by regular cropping for several
months and the more digestible newer growth (higher in protein, lower in lignin) is preferred
(Bjorndal, 1980). When the cropped grasses show signs of stress (blade thinning, increased
inter-nodal distance), the turtle apparently abandons the scar and moves on to form another.

Green turtles travel extensively during the first decades of their lives and in the years
preceding reproductive maturity take up temporary residence in many locations (Carr et al.,
1978). They may travel thousands of kilometers in the Caribbean Sea before the urge to
repro-duce impels them to migrate to mating and nesting grounds, the latter presumed to be their
natal (=birth) beach. Caribbean green turtles reach sexual maturity at an estimated 18-36 years
of age (reviewed by Frazer and Ladner, 1986). After reproducing, there is some evidence that
turtles return to resident foraging grounds (=feeding areas). Therefore, the movements of adult
turtles are likely to be less extensive than those of juveniles, since adults move seasonally
between relatively fixed feeding and breeding areas.

Page 7

CEP Technical Report No. 17

The nesting season has yet to be precisely defined in St. Kitts/Nevis, but Wilkins and
Meylan (1984) suggest that the bulk of the nesting occurs between May and October. Towle et
al. (1986) estimated that nesting peaks in August-September, but indicated that a low level of
nesting may occur year around. Neither nest density nor nesting frequency are known for St.
Kitts/Nevis. On the basis of information available from other areas, 2-6 clutches of eggs are
probably laid per female every 2-3 years. At the well-studied Tortuguero, Costa Rica, rookery,
gravid (=egg-bearing) females deposit clutches averaging 112 eggs (sd=24.2, range 3-219, n=
2544) every two weeks (Bjorndal and Carr, 1989). Undisturbed eggs hatch after approximately
two months of incubation, with incubation temperature determining the sex ratio of the
hatchlings (Morreale et al., 1982). In St. Kitts/Nevis, most eggs are believed to be harvested
soon after they are laid (A. Barrett, pers. comm., 1989), despite the fact that eggs are protected
between 1 June and 30 September (section 4.21).

Meylan (1983) described nesting as "sporadic" on St. Kitts and noted that "the most
frequently mentioned nesting sites are on the tip of the southeastern peninsula -- at Majors Bay,
Banana Bay, Cockleshell Bay, Mosquito Bay, and Sand Bank Bay . both [green turtles and
hawksbills] also nest incidentally at Conaree and Belle Tete" (Figures 4 and 5). She also
mentioned that green turtles feed, occasionally in groups, on the north coast at Willett's Bay and
around the Southeast Peninsula. Green turtles are occasionally seen at Nag's Head (Robert
Young, Vanier College, pers. comm., 1992) and are regularly observed at Grape Tree Bottom on
the Caribbean coast of the Southeast Peninsula (Thomas Honebrink, pers. obs.). One of the
largest green turtles ever hauled ashore was at Trinity Bay in the 1950's; a donkey cart was used
to transport it into the village (Oliver Spencer, pers. comm., 1992). Waters offshore Old Road,
Sandy Point, and Dieppe Bay towns were all favoured netting locations.

In a report prepared for the Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium, Wilkins and Meylan
(1984) indicated nesting on St. Kitts at Sandy Point, Newton Ground, Dieppe Bay, Sandy Bay,
Conaree, North Friar's Bay, Sand Bank Bay, Mosquito Bay, Major's Bay, Cockleshell Bay,
Garvey's, Challengers, and Ballast Bay. Some of these beaches, including most of the Caribbean
shoreline from Lynch Bay southeast to Hart's Bay (Lynch, Challenger's, Trinity, Garvey's,
Hart's), were lost to Hurricanes Klaus (1984) and Hugo (1989). The sand has never returned.
d'Arbeau (1989) surveyed the beaches of the Southeast Peninsula and attributed 22% of the nests
to green turtles (26 June-31 July 1989); South Friar's and Sand Bank bays appeared to be the
most important for this species (Table 1). Unfortunately, vehicle traffic and beach-cleaning
equipment now discourage nesting on South Friar's beach (section 4.134).

In Nevis, Meylan (1983) noted historical records of green turtles nesting at Pinneys
Beach (Figure 6), but expressed doubt that much nesting occurs today because of the high level
of activity on this beach. She stated that foraging occurs "widely" around the island and
indicated that green turtles were captured by nets off the southeast and southwest coasts and
Newcastle. Several have borne tags originally put on at the nesting beach on Isla Aves,
suggesting that Nevis may be one of the resident feeding grounds for that population. Robert
Young observes green turtles feeding on "virtually every hike along the cliffs at White Hall Bay"
on the south coast; large green turtles are also "predictable" at Almond Gardens (pers. comm.,

Page 8

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

On Nevis, nesting has been reported at Pinneys Bay, Red Cliff, and Indian Castle
(Wilkins and Meylan 1984) and occasionally on the north coast on beaches in the Newcastle
area. Nesting is rare to nonexistent at Pinneys due to increased levels of human activity and the
beach at Indian Castle has been "destroyed" by sand mining (A. Barrett, pers. comm., 1991). At
the present time, the most important green turtle beaches in Nevis are believed to be the pocket
beaches in the Newcastle area, and White and Landing bays on the southeast coast (A. Barrett,
pers. comm., 1992). Both juvenile and adult green turtles are harvested, especially during the
open season (1 October-31 May); see section 3.3.

2.3 Dermochelys coriacea, Leatherback Sea Turtle

Leatherbacks, referred to in St. Kitts as "river turtles", are the largest of the sea turtles.
Females nesting in the Caribbean typically weigh 300-500 kg (650-1100 lb). The largest
leatherback on record is a male that stranded on the coast of Wales in 1988 and weighed 916 kg
(2015 lb) (Morgan, 1989). The species is easily distinguished from other sea turtles because it
lacks a bony shell, having instead a slightly flexible skin-covered carapace. The smooth, black
skin is spotted with pale yellow or white. The tapered carapace is raised into seven prominent
ridges and measures 130-165 cm in straight-line length (Figure 3). Powerful front flippers
extend nearly the length of the body. Leatherbacks are found in the tropics, as well as in cold
Canadian and European waters; they have the most extensive range of any reptile. Leatherbacks
are seasonal visitors to St. Kitts/Nevis, arriving in the early months of the year to lay their eggs.
It is likely that they leave north-temperate foraging and residence areas to come to St.
Kitts/Nevis and then return to these latitudes after egg-laying is complete (cf Eckert and Eckert,

The nesting season is said to occur between March and May (Meylan, 1983) but it is
likely, based on the season in neighboring islands, that some nesting continues through mid
July. Turtle hunters interviewed by primary school children indicated that the season in St. Kitts
spans February to June (see Appendix I). Data collected at the well-studied nesting ground at
Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge (St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands) indicate that each female
deposits an average of 6-7 clutches of eggs at 10-day intervals during the nesting season.
Females generally return to nest every 2-3 years, but individuals occasionally nest in consecutive
years and sometimes return after intervals longer than three years. Clutch size is typically
60-100 yolked eggs, averaging 85 (Basford et al., 1990); a variable number of small, yolkless
eggs is also deposited. The eggs incubate in the sand at a depth of 60-70 cm. Hatchlings emerge
from their nest, generally at dusk, 60-65 days after egg-laying.

In St. Kitts, most nesting occurs on the Atlantic coast and principally from Cayon River
to Key Ghaut (there is also some nesting south of Key Ghaut, despite the offshore reef), but also
on beaches as far south as Sand Bank Bay. Residents of the village of Keys ("Turtle Town")
reported to Meylan (1983) that 8-12 leatherbacks nested annually between Cayon River and Key
Ghaut. Meylan found seven tracks of varying ages on this beach on 19 May 1983. The
following year, Wilkins and Meylan (1984) reported nesting at Conaree, North Friar's Bay, Sand
Bank Bay, and Sandy Point, the latter on the Caribbean coast (Figures 4 and 5). Caribbean coast
nesting appears to be considerably less frequent than Atlantic coast nesting, though Sandy Point
is recognized as an important area. An early report by Caldwell and Rathjen (1969) indicated
that two leatherbacks were taken in June 1968, including one taken on the beach at Belle Tete,

Page 9

CEP Technical Report No. 17

the sandy promontory just north of Sandy Point Town. Five tracks were observed there by Anne
Meylan during a field survey on 18 May 1983. Further south and several years later, two tracks
were visible at South Friar's Bay on 2 April 1989 (Karen Eckert, pers. obs.).

In preparation for WATS II, Conaree Beach (Key Ghaut to Jack Tar Village) was
monitored between 28 April-9 June 1987; 14 leatherback nests were recorded and most if not all
eggs were poached. Two nesting females are known to have been killed during this time, one
measured 51 inches (129.5 cm) curved carapace length (CCL) and the other 54 inches (137 cm)
CCL; a third female was measured whilst nesting and measured 59 inches (150 cm) CCL
(Wilkins and Barrett, 1987). Nesting on the channel beaches of Cockleshell and Mosquito has
also been observed (Arendt, 1985 in Towle et al., 1986). d'Arbeau (1989) surveyed the beaches
of the Southeast Peninsula and attributed 9% of the nests to leatherbacks (26 June-31 July 1989).
She concluded that South Friar's Bay appeared to be the most important for this species (Table
1). In 1992, nesting was documented on North Friar's Bay (Kate Orchard, pers. comm.), Sand
Bank Bay (Ricky Pereira, pers. comm.), and Cayon (Tom Honebrink, pers. obs.). On 3 May
1992, a nester wandered landward and became mired in Frigate Bay Salt Pond behind the
Monkey Bar. She was dragged out by a rope tied to a truck (Rick Cordwell, pers. comm., 1992).

Nesting on Nevis is described as "infrequent" (Meylan 1983). In an early account by
Arthur Anslyn (pers. comm. to Rathjen, 3 July 1966 in Caldwell and Rathjen, 1969), "two of the
biggest turtles ever landed in Nevis were captured when they came up on the beach to lay their
eggs. The first one was captured on the southeast coast and weighed an estimated 2000 pounds
[N.B. this is likely to be an exaggeration]. The second, on the western coast, weighed 1036
pounds." These turtles are sure to have been leatherbacks. Wilkins and Meylan (1984) reported
nesting at Red Cliff and Indian Castle beaches on the south shore and estimated that 3-5 nests per
year were laid at Indian Castle (Figure 6). Today some nesting is reported from Cades Bay,
Oualie Beach (Mosquito Bay) and Hurricane Hill, but the Indian Castle beach site has been
"destroyed" by sand mining (A. Barrett, pers. comm., 1991).

A 25 April 1992 article in The Democrat reported that "a group of Nevis fishermen
accidentally landed a huge leatherback turtle [at Oualie Beach], which had become entangled in
their nets. As the leatherback is not considered good eating meat, it had no apparent commercial
value to the fishermen, who left the turtle on its back on the beach whilst they went to sell their
catch of fish, no doubt intending to return when they had more time to disentangle it from their
valuable nets. The giant leatherback turtle, which is a heavily protected "endangered species" in
almost every country of the world -- with the unfortunate exception of St. Kitts and Nevis -- was
over six feet long. .. A small crowd of tourists and locals became alarmed at the turtle's distress
and called the Fisheries Division and John Yearwood, President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Hotel
Association, who acted immediately by offering to reimburse the Nevisian fishermen for any
damage done to their nets in cutting the turtle free. .. After the net was fully cleared from its
body without damage, the turtle swiftly set off for the water's edge and launched itself back into
the sea to the admiring cheers of the crowd of well-wishers."

Little is known about the offshore behaviour of leatherback turtles in St. Kitts/Nevis,
including whether or not they feed in local waters. Stomach contents of animals killed in other
parts of the world indicate that the diet is mostly cnidarians (jellyfish, siphonophores) and tuni-

Page 10

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

cates (salps, pyrosomas) (Brongersma, 1969; Den Hartog and Van Nierop, 1984; Davenport and
Balazs, 1991). Based on offshore studies of diving by adult females nesting on St. Croix, Eckert
et al. (1989) proposed that the observed inter-nesting dive behaviour reflected nocturnal feeding
on vertically migrating zooplankton, chiefly siphonophore and salp colonies. There are no
records of juveniles in St. Kitts or Nevis, although injured juveniles have been found recently in
Barbados (Horrocks, 1987) and Puerto Rico (Johnson, 1989). The paths taken by hatchlings
leaving their natal beaches are not known. There are no data on growth rate or age at sexual
maturity for wild leatherbacks.

Oil derived from leatherbacks killed in St. Kitts has traditionally been used for medicinal
purposes, including home cold remedies, and this continues to the present day (see also section
3.3). Leatherbacks have at times been killed in Nevis, but historically there has been virtually no
market for the meat or the oil.

2.4 Eretmochelys imbricata, Hawksbill Sea Turtle

The hawksbill is distinguished by a narrow, pointed beak with which it pries sponges and
other soft-bodied organisms from the reef. The carapace is often posteriorly serrated and the
four pairs of carapace scutes overlap, like shingles on a roof (Figure 3). There are two pair of
pre-frontal scales between the eyes. Adults rarely exceed 80 kg (175 lb) and a carapace length of
about 90 cm (straight-line, nuchal notch to posterior tip) (Pritchard et al., 1983; Witzell, 1983).
Bright mottled colouration (brown, orange, gold) is common. This rare turtle is challenging to
study. Hawksbills are migratory, high-density nesting is rare, and the relatively few tagging
programmes have not been in place long enough to generate a useful number of tag returns (that
is, a sufficiently large number of recaptures to illustrate post-nesting movement). Gravid
females often nest on isolated beaches (including those flanked by exposed coral and rock) that
are difficult for biologists to reach on a consistent basis.

Principal nesting beaches in the West Indies are not easily identified, but one of the best
known is Pasture Bay Beach (Jumby Bay Resort) on Long Island, Antigua. Data collected at this
site indicate that, over the course of the main nesting season (mid-June to mid-November),
turtles make an average of five nests separated by intervals of 13-18 days (cf. Corliss et al.,
1989). Average clutch size ranges from 120-160 eggs in the Western Atlantic (summarized by
Witzell, 1983). The female often lays her eggs deep in the shelter of beach vegetation, such as
the sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera). Little evidence of the visit exists aside from a faint
asymmetrical crawl (flippers alternating) about 0.7 m wide leading to and from the ocean.
Incubation periods average 60 to 75 days in the Western Atlantic (Witzell, 1983). As is true for
other sea turtles, females will predictably return to the same beach or area to renest on intervals
of 2-3 years, again based on data collected in Antigua (Jim Richardson, University of Georgia,
pers. comm., 1992). Sand temperature plays a large role in determining hatchling sex -- warmer
temperatures produce females, whereas cooler temperatures produce males.

Nesting may occur during all months of the year, especially May to October (Wilkins and
Meylan, 1984), in St. Kitts/Nevis. Meylan (1983) described nesting as "sporadic" on St. Kitts
and noted that "the most frequently mentioned nesting sites are on the tip of the southeastern
peninsula -- at Major's Bay, Banana Bay, Cockleshell Bay, Mosquito Bay, and Sand Bank Bay .

Page 11

CEP Technical Report No. 17

. both [green turtles and hawksbills] also nest incidentally at Conaree and Belle Tete" (Figures
4, 5). In a report prepared for the first Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium, Wilkins and Meylan
(1984) indicated nesting on St. Kitts at Sandy Point, Newton Ground, Dieppe Bay, Sandy Bay,
Conaree, North Friar's Bay, Sand Bank Bay, Mosquito Bay, Major's Bay, Cockleshell Bay,
Garvey's, Challengers, and Ballast Bay. d'Arbeau (1989) surveyed the beaches of the Southeast
Peninsula and attributed 68% of the nests to hawksbills; Major's Bay was clearly the most
important site for this species, with South Friar's Bay in second place (Table 1). By 1992, severe
erosion at Major's Bay had reduced the available nesting habitat there.

In Nevis, nesting was reported at Pinneys Bay, Red Cliff, and Indian Castle by Wilkins
and Meylan (1984) (Figure 6), but is now rare to nonexistent at Pinneys due to increased levels
of human activity and the beach at Indian Castle has been lost to sand mining. At the present
time, the most important hawksbill beaches in Nevis are believed to be the pocket beaches in the
Newcastle area, and White and Landing bays on the southeast coast (A. Barrett, pers. comm.,

All size classes of hawksbills (23 cm straight-line carapace length and larger) are
encountered in nearshore waters. Meylan (1983) reported sightings in shallow reefs around
Dieppe Bay, Belle Tete, and Canada Estate in St. Kitts, and that in Nevis hawksbills were
"captured in nets in the Black Bay [Red Cliff] area, although less frequently than green turtles."
Wilkins and Meylan (1984) indicated that foraging had been observed at Sandy Point,
Willett's/St. Paul's, Dieppe Bay, Keys/Conaree, South Frigate Bay, and Major's Bay; and off
Pinneys Beach in Nevis. Les Windley (Sea Nevis Charter Boats, pers. comm., 1992) reports that
juvenile hawksbills (less than 2-ft (0.6 m) shell length) are sometimes seen during charter trips
and snorkeling at Shitten Bay on the south coast of St. Kitts, and at Cades Bay and the
Prinderella area of western Nevis; the turtles have never been seen feeding, but appear to seek
shelter in the shallow reefs. Residents report regular sightings at Whitehouse Bay and Nag's
Head on the Southeast Peninsula.

Hawksbills are "spongivores" and feed mainly on reef-associated sponges in the
Caribbean region. Sponges contributed 95.3% of the total dry mass of all food items in digestive
tract samples from 61 animals from seven Caribbean countries (Meylan, 1988). In the absence
of comprehensive dietary data for local populations, there is little recourse but to assume that the
distribution of hawksbill foraging is more or less coincident with the distribution of coral reefs in
St. Kitts/Nevis. Hawksbills also occasionally eat whelks, cracking the shell and consuming the
soft mollusk (Kenneth Samuel, Kenneth's Dive Center, pers. comm., 1992). Both juveniles and
adults are harvested in St. Kitts and Nevis, especially during the open season (1 October-31
May); see section 3.3.

2.5 Lepidochelvs kempii, Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle

There are no records of Kemp's ridleys in St. Kitts or Nevis. The diminutive Kemp's
ridley is gray in colour as an immature and primarily olive green as an adult (Pritchard et al.,
1983). The carapace is round, often as wide as it is long, and carapace scutes do not overlap one
another (cf hawksbill turtle, section 2.4). Adults weigh 27-41 kg (60-90 lb) (Ross et al., 1989).
The species is carnivorous and eats mostly crabs, but also preys upon other crustaceans, shell-

Page 12

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

fish, jellyfish, sea urchins, starfish, and fish. With the exception of a single recapture from
Caribbean Nicaragua of a "head-started" individual (Manzella et al., 1991), which may have
displayed altered behaviour due to having been held captive during its first year (Woody, 1991),
Kemp's ridleys are confined to the Gulf of Mexico and temperate northern Atlantic. Unarguably
the most endangered sea turtle in the world, the total adult population is thought to number no
more than 900 females and an unknown number of males (Ross et al., 1989). Nesting occurs
almost exclusively in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico.

2.6 Lepidochelys olivacea, Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

There are no records of olive ridleys foraging or nesting in St. Kitts or Nevis, nor would
the species be expected to occur. Olive ridleys are similar in appearance to Kemp's ridleys
(section 2.5), having a nearly round carapace (width about 90% of the length) and an adult colour
of olive green or brown dorsally and yellowish white ventrally. The turtle rarely exceeds 100 lb
(45 kg) (Pritchard et al., 1983). Each front flipper bears a single claw, the horny beak may be
finely serrated, and carapace scutes do not overlap one another. The lateral scutes (those to
either side of the median on the shell) are divided into 5-9 pairs, considerably more than other
sea turtles which typically have 4-5 pairs. In the western Atlantic, olive ridleys have been
reported from Brazil northward to Venezuela (Pritchard, 1969) but significant levels of nesting
appear to occur only in Suriname, primarily at Eilanti Beach (Schulz, 1975). Olive ridleys
nesting in Suriname have declined considerably in recent years from about 3,000 nests per year
in the late 1960's to fewer than 500 nests per year today (Fretey, 1990). Incidental catch and
drowning in shrimp trawls has been implicated in their demise. Diffuse nesting occurs in
northwestern Guyana and in French Guiana (Reichart, 1989).


3.1 Destruction or Modification of Habitat

The environmental resources of St. Kitts/Nevis are unique and irreplaceable. It is
crucially important to pursue national economic development in an orderly manner to promote
and maintain a competitive business climate and to conserve these environmental amenities for
the enjoyment and economic utilization of future generations. St. Kitts/Nevis is a very small
country. The reality of scale limits development options to some extent, and there is not the
margin for error that larger countries enjoy. Holistic and thoughtful development is essential.
There are already examples of habitat destruction and perhaps the most obvious, at least in terms
of sea turtles, is beach degradation. Problems include the loss of some beaches to sand mining
and the abuse of others by vehicle traffic, waste disposal, commercial development, and
armouring (section 4.13). Residents cite once active nesting beaches, such as Pinneys on Nevis,
that are now rarely visited by turtles because of human activity. Further, there is concern that
large-scale development of the Southeast Peninsula of St. Kitts, encouraged by the recent
completion of a paved road extending the length of the once wild peninsula, will ultimately
destroy many of the nation's remaining sea turtle nesting beaches. Once the relatively few sandy
beaches are over-commercialized, they cannot be recaptured for the quiet pleasure of residents,
tourists, or wildlife. This is a central point, for without a commitment by Government to exercise

Page 13

CEP Technical Report No. 17

stewardship over the coastal zone, there can be little enthusiasm among turtle hunters to do their
part in safeguarding the biodiversity of this beautiful nation.

It is equally important to recognize existing threats to the marine environment, since sea
turtles utilise the coastal zone for feeding, resting, and migrating. Domestic pollution, especially
around urban areas, poses a threat because not all the raw sewage generated is collected via a
sewer system for subsequent treatment. Much of this waste disappears directly into the sea. In
addition, waste products from a variety of industries in St. Kitts, including sugar cane and
molasses production, distillery, abattoir, brewery and power plants, "all enter the coastal
environment and contribute to stressful conditions experienced by marine ecosystems" (CCA,
1991). Local agriculture, increasingly dependent on agrochemicals, also contributes to
contaminated runoff. Ships discharge sewage and other refuse at sea. Fisheries and marine
tourism (SCUBA diving) may have negative effects on the marine environment, especially when
considered cumulatively. In particular, coral reef destruction is an increasingly worrisome
problem due to anchoring, lost or discarded fishing gear (lost fish pots, tangled fishing line, torn
nets), garbage, and the activities of recreational divers, the latter involving the touching and
trampling of corals. Sea grasses are also at risk from anchoring and sedimentation. It is
generally conceded that sea grasses around Nevis, especially around Charlestown, are "slowly
disappearing" (Robinson, 1991).

Probably the most prominent examples of habitat degradation around the two islands are
the main harbours at Charlestown and Basseterre. Water quality is poor in these areas, largely
due to general shipping-related pollution and run-off from the streets of the capital cities. In the
Charlestown Harbour, the sea grasses are mostly dead and the corals are gone. Physical damage
to coral reef habitat in the Basseterre Harbour and Brimstone Hill Shallows has been extensive,
primarily due to anchoring. There are anchor scars 150-200 m across in Basseterre Harbour
where huge coral formations once flourished (K. Samuel, pers. comm., 1992). Furthermore, the
beach at Basseterre used to be some 50-70 m wide and host significant numbers of nesting
turtles. Construction of the Deep Water Port and the pier there starved the Basseterre beach over
a period of about ten years. Today the beach is only 1-2 m wide; indeed, the coastal road is often
undercut by waves breaking near it. Big and Little Potato bays just south of the Deep Water Port
also used to have sea turtles nesting, but the beaches have been reduced to rubble and the turtles
are gone. Similarly, construction of the solid Charlestown pier has precipitated the loss of sandy
beaches from the pier north to Pinneys Beach Hotel in Nevis. Fewer than ten years ago people
could swim off sandy beaches between the pier and Pinneys Beach Hotel. This is no longer true
because the sand is diverted out to sea or deposited in Gallows Bay. What was once sandy shore
is now rocky.

Harbour areas are zoned for commercial activities, and as such their degradation is
virtually assured. More troublesome is increasing activity in as yet unspoiled areas, such as the
Southeast Peninsula and the Narrows. Sea grass is abundant around the Southeast Peninsula,
particularly in the channel (Narrows) bays. For example, Mosquito Bay is a high use area
because of water sports promoted there and there is evidence (e.g., aerial photographs) of a
thinning in the bay's grass beds. Dredging at Cockleshell Bay has already damaged the seabed
and further manipulation is planned (section 4.147). Simmonds (1991a) reported that of four
sites examined for the Coastal Marine Ecosystem Monitoring Project (Sand Bank Bay, North

Page 14

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

Frigate Bay, Old Road Bay, Sandy Point), varying degrees of overall reef health were observed.
Sand Bank Bay and North Frigate Bay were described as "poor"; substantial amounts of broken
and damaged corals (mostly elkhom, Acropora sp.) were observed, as well as excessive algal
growth. Old Road was found to be in "good" condition and Sandy Point in "fair" condition. The
latter two sites had less algae and a greater diversity of invertebrates and fishes. It is widely held
among local divers that St. Kitts' Atlantic reefs are dying. The mortality appears to be patchy
and particularly severe offshore from Jack Tar Village and north toward Half Moon Bay; the
cause is not known (Joseph Simmonds, Fisheries Officer, pers. comm., 1992).

3.2 Disease or Predation

The extent to which disease and predation negatively influence the survival prospects of
sea turtles in St. Kitts/Nevis has not been quantified, but there is no reason to believe that either
factor is out of balance or poses a serious threat. Green turtle fibropapilloma disease has been
observed by SCUBA dive operator Kenneth Samuel, but only "a couple times and not recently".
The disease is a herpesvirus-like infection which has been reported elsewhere in the region (see
Jacobson, 1990) and is extensively documented in Florida (Ehrhart, 1991). Symptoms include
external tumors of varying sizes. The tumors can result in blindness and debilitation; in several
cases, internal tumors have been seen in the lungs, intestinal surface, and kidneys (Jacobson,
1990). The cause of this potentially fatal disease is not known. If turtles with visible tumors are
captured they should be released. Under no circumstances should diseased turtles be eaten.

Major predators on sea turtle eggs and hatchlings include both indigenous (ants, crabs,
birds) and exotic (dogs, mongooses, pigs) species. Wilkins and Meylan (1984) mentioned dogs
and mongooses as predators of hatchlings. Wild pigs foraging at the dump near Conaree, St.
Kitts, occasionally roam the beach and may disturb turtle eggs (pigs are significant egg predators
elsewhere in the Wider Caribbean region). d'Arbeau (1989) estimated hatchling loss to crabs,
birds, and mammals (and desiccation in one case) on seven Southeast Peninsula beaches from 23
June to 31 July 1989 to be 21.28% (Table 2). The exotic species have had a particularly
devastating effect on the native fauna; ground birds are now scarce, sea turtles are endangered,
and the mountain chicken, agouti, and iguana are all extinct (CCA, 1991). There is no evidence
that monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) resident on the Southeast Peninsula pose any threat to sea
turtles or their eggs and hatchlings (R. Young, pers. comm., 1989).

A wide variety of fishes consume hatchlings at sea. As the turtles grow, their
vulnerability to predation is reduced. Only the larger sharks and killer whales (Orca orcinus) can
successfully challenge a fully armoured turtle. In January 1992, a 3 m tiger shark was landed at
Oualie Beach Resort, Nevis, and found to have ingested a juvenile hawksbill about 30 cm in
carapace length (Young, 1992). d'Arbeau (1989) described a shark attack on an adult green
turtle in shallow waters off the Southeast Peninsula in June 1989; "wave action brought the
injured female close to shore where she was ... slaughtered by the road construction crew."
Fishermen and divers occasionally see turtles with missing or partially missing flippers, a
condition which is likely to be attributable to shark encounter. Some years ago, leatherback
remains were found in the stomachs of three killer whales captured off St. Vincent (Caldwell and
Caldwell, 1969).

Page 15

CEP Technical Report No. 17

3.3 Over-utilisation

Historical overview: Preliminary excavations of 21 early settlements in Nevis have
revealed occasional sea turtle bones in sites dating from 200 BC to 1500 AD (Samuel Wilson,
University of Texas, pers. comm., 1991), but there are no data to indicate the extent to which
turtles were harvested during prehistoric eras. Similarly, very little information can be found
relating to their catch or consumption during the centuries of European occupation. General
anecdotal details were reported in the letters of William Smith: "There are seven or eight kinds
of Turtle alias Tortoise, though but one of them eatable, which is called Green Turtle, because its
fat is of a green colour, and that not of the sort, whose shell serves for Snuff-Boxes. They are so
common that they need no description; and the manner of catching them at Nevis, is as follows.
When a Person sees any of their Tracks in the Sea Sands, he next Night sits up to watch, and turn
them upon their Backs, and then they are quite helpless. Their Blood is cold; and upon opening
one of them, I have seen, at least, two hundred eggs that are exactly round, (like a School-boy's
Marble) taken out of it, about forty of which, were enclosed in whitish tough Skins, with a
water-coloured, or jellyish substance round the yolk, and were ready to be laid at one time."
(Smith, 1745).

One thing is undeniable, and that is that sea turtles have been harvested for centuries in
what is now the nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. It is difficult to know precisely when local turtle
populations began their decline, but the trend is consistent with that reported elsewhere in the
Caribbean. During an October 1992 interview, Charles Solas (about 65 years old) of Keys
village recalled cutting cane as a young man and sometimes walking to Conaree Beach to sleep
at night. There were as many as six (sometimes more) leatherbacks nesting per night on the
beach in those days, although he and the other hunters rarely killed more than one (each) per
night because that was all they could handle (transport, butcher, distribute). A turtle could be
expected each time "a star pitched". He remembers killing a maximum of three in a single night.
Since it was not possible to transport a turtle off the beach at night, he would either decapitate
her or cut off her nose with his cutlass, believing that if she could not smell the water, she would
not return to the sea. Hunters generally worked alone, sometimes with a dog. Family and
friends were assembled at dawn to assist in transport and butchering. Meat and oil were the
primary products. Eggs were very popular and "plenty people" used to gather them on the
beaches during the nesting season. Eggs were located by probing with a steel rod.

According to Solas, who concedes that very few turtles come to the beaches anymore, the
females have simply gone somewhere else, "gone by the current". Today a hunter will wait
many nights before his effort is rewarded. The scenario is similar for green and hawksbill
turtles. Another native Kittitian, diver Kenneth Samuel, remembers sea turtles brought in in
abundance during the 1940's and 1950's. They were stockpiled at fishermen's residences, such as
at the Ramsey house and others on the waterfront in Basseterre, where they were stowed under
the building on their backs until butchering. Buyers came to the fishermen's houses and ordered
the number of turtles desired. Turtles not sold after 7-10 days were close to death, having had no
access to food or water, and were killed for distribution to friends and villagers who could not
otherwise afford the luxury of meat at one shilling (25 cents) per pound, considerably more
expensive than fish. A popular method of preparation was to soak the meat in a pork barrel with
spices and the juice from imported pickles, then cure it in the hot sun. Large sea turtle shells

Page 16

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

were used as toy boats for children. By the 1970's it was clear to anyone paying attention that
turtles were smaller, and they were getting rare (K. Samuel, pers. comm., 1992).

The beaches of the Southeast Peninsula have always been particularly good nesting
habitat. Campbell Evelyn (former Chairman, Conservation Commission) and Oliver Spencer
(Old Road Fisherman's Cooperative) recall "lots" of nesting on these beaches, especially on the
Caribbean and terminus (Narrows) shorelines. In 1968-1970, it was possible to walk in the sea
grass along the shoreline of Cockleshell Bay and collect huge conchs in knee-deep water. There
were turtle nests "everywhere". Mosquito Beach, too, was "famous for turtles", both hawksbill
and green. Diving in Mosquito Bay in the 1970's, Spencer remembers multiple turtle nets set
offshore. In addition to frequent nesting on the terminus beaches of Mosquito, Cockleshell, and
Banana Bays (Figure 5), Evelyn estimates that there were commonly as many as 35 (and up to
75) green turtle nests on South Friar's Bay at any one time. This is particularly telling because
green turtles are today the rarest of all the sea turtles that nest in St. Kitts and Nevis. Evelyn
describes the Peninsula beaches today as "desolate". Since the peninsula lacked a road until very
recently, the majority of sea turtles in recent decades were taken by netting. Nevertheless, it is
also true that gravid females and eggs were taken from the nesting beaches by fishermen
traveling to the peninsula by boat.

Contemporary data: Meylan (1983) reported that sea turtle populations in St. Kitts were
considered by most residents to be declining. The following text is taken from her account. Net
fishermen complained about a reduction in annual catch. Catch rates for fishermen at the time of
her writing were on the order of 10-20 per year. One turtle fisherman at Dieppe Bay used to
catch 50 turtles per year in the early 1960's; in 1979, he caught a total of four green turtles and
hawksbills, and one leatherback. He implied that he had exerted equal effort during both
periods, although this is a difficult point to establish. About ten people on the island were
actively setting turtle nests at the time of Meylan's writing. None were exclusively dependent on
this for their livelihood, but the meat and income were undoubtedly an important contribution to
their subsistence. Most turtles caught were immature greens. The meat (all species, with
leatherback least preferred) was sold in many villages and occasionally in the public market in
Basseterre, as well as to hotels. The price in 1980 was US$ 0.80/kg; it had increased to US$
1.60/kg by 1983 [N.B. US$ 1.00 = EC$ 2.70 in October 1992]. Turtle eggs were also eaten, but
rarely sold. Leatherback oil was widely used medicinally.

Meylan (1983) reported that there was "limited information" on changes in population
levels of marine turtles in Nevis. A tortoiseshell buyer in Charlestown reported a decrease in the
amount of tortoiseshell he was able to purchase from fishermen on the island -- from 136 kg/yr
in 1975 to 91 kg/yr in 1980. Inasmuch as hunting pressure increased during this period, a
decline in the hawksbill population may have occurred. The status of green turtles around Nevis
was reported as "unknown" by Meylan (1983). She indicated that at least a dozen people, most
of whom lived in Hanley's Road, Bath Village, and Newcastle, fished for turtles with tangle nets
in order to supplement their incomes and diets; none depended solely on turtle fishing for their
livelihood. While there was considerable fluctuation from year to year, the average annual catch
reported by Nevis fishermen was 5-15 turtles, mostly green turtles. When abundant, green turtles
were shipped live on the ferry or the "lighters" to the public market at Basseterre, St. Kitts. As in
St. Kitts, but apparently to a much lesser extent, oil derived from the leatherback was used in

Page 17

CEP Technical Report No. 17

Nevis as a home remedy for colds and congestion. On both islands, sea turtles were harvested
without any knowledge on the part of the hunters as to the size of the populations at large, or the
number of individuals that could be sustainably taken each year.

In the National Report for St. Kitts/Nevis prepared for the 1983 Western Atlantic Turtle
Symposium (WATS I), Wilkins and Meylan (1984) described five landing sites for turtle
products -- Basseterre (caught with "set nets from Nevis"), Sandy Point ("set nets, spear,
nesting"), Indian Castle ("set nets, spear"), St. Paul's ("set nets, spear"), and Dieppe Bay ("set
nets, spear"). Typical turtle nets are gill nets 50-75 feet long and 10 feet deep, with a mesh size
of 8-10 inches (Barrett, 1987). In a later report, Wilkins and Barrett (1987) conceded that turtles
were "relatively low in abundance" as compared to 1983 when the first survey had been
conducted. Nests made on Conaree Beach in 1987 were found poached "within a day or two".
Prior to and during the Conaree Beach survey, two leatherbacks were legally taken there. In all,
more than 50 turtles hawksbillss, green turtles, loggerheads, leatherbacks) were caught in St.
Kitts during the 1986-1987 open season. The meat was consumed locally. Hawksbill shells
were either sold to a buyer from neighboring islands, or sold to a local buyer who, in turn, sold
them to an outside buyer. In Nevis, about 20 fishermen "fully engaged in turtle fishing" operated
some 36 nets in inshore areas, along the peninsula of St. Kitts, and near beaches "known to be
frequented by turtles". Total catch in Nevis for the October 1986-May 1987 open season was
estimated to be 110 turtles, mainly hawksbill and green turtles (average: 65 lb). Hawksbills were
caught most frequently; leatherbacks were occasionally caught and released because the meat
was not favoured. Hawksbill and green turtle meat was sold mostly to hotels. The shells were
used for decoration and jewelry; some fishermen swingedd" (charred and broke) them for use as
fish trap bait.

By the 1987-1988 season, only eight fishermen were directly engaged in turtle fishing in
Nevis and they operated 10 turtle nets; the catch of 47 turtles, the majority being female
hawksbills, was considered relatively low (Barrett, 1988). Based largely on interviews with
fishermen and Fisheries Officers, d'Arbeau (1989) reported that green turtles and hawksbills
were caught by spearing on the coral reefs, particularly those offshore the Southeast Peninsula.
Turtle nets were also set (mostly by Nevis fishermen) in the two mile channel separating St. Kitts
and Nevis. According to Assistant Fisheries Officer Audra Barrett (pers. comm. in d'Arbeau,
1989), Nevis recorded an annual turtle catch of 110-120 greens and hawksbills in 1988 and an
estimated 1989 catch of 60-70; most of the turtles were caught off the Southeast Peninsula.
"Turtle watches" are also carried out by fishermen who await the return of a nesting female
13-15 days after laying. Once laying has been accomplished, the eggs are removed and the turtle
turned and slaughtered. Eggs are either consumed locally (often rolled in flour and seasoning
and deep-fried) or sold to certain hotels on the island at approximately EC$ 6.00 per dozen
(Kenyon Griffin, pers. comm. in d'Arbeau, 1989). Traditionally the leatherback has not been
captured primarily for meat, but rather for oil. The eggs of all three species are considered a
delicacy and also regarded as having aphrodisiac properties. Eggs are collected when a track
reveals the presence of a nest, which is usually located by probing. Anslyn (1982) reported to
the 1982 CCA Annual Meeting that "turtle eggs, considered a delicacy by some, are still being
taken from nests during the closed season."

Page 18

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

There are no turtle harvest data for 1989 or 1990 in Nevis. At least three green turtles
were killed on Gallows Bay (probably in May 1990), as evidenced by the shells left behind.
During the 1 October 1990-31 May 1991 open season, about 75 turtles (30 to 150-200 lb each)
were landed in Nevis. These were generally net-caught and kept alive for 2-3 days to "advertise"
their availability; when a sufficient number of buyers (residents, hotel owners) had been
identified, the turtles were butchered for meat and, in males, the penis. Closed season landings
included large green turtles slaughtered at Pinneys Beach on each of three successive Saturdays
in July 1990 and a leatherback killed in the Cotton Ground area in June 1991. Net fishing is
concentrated in shallow coastal waters, generally in areas of sea grass. One day in early October
1992, 12 nets were set between Oualie Beach and Dogwood Point. Some Newcastle fisher-men
also set their nets in waters adjoining nesting beaches on the Southeast Peninsula, St. Kitts. One
day in early 1992, six nets were set in Mosquito Bay (R. Pereira, pers. comm.). Turtles at sea
have noticeably declined over the last 12 years, according to local divers. A "few" were sure to
be seen on every dive until about four years ago; now sightings are irregular at best. Large sea
turtles are almost never encountered (Ellis Chaderton, SCUBA Safaris, pers. comm., 1992).

In St. Kitts, Fisheries personnel estimate that fewer than 50 turtles are landed per annum,
but there is some evidence to suggest that the number may exceed 100 turtles. There are
probably fewer than five active turtle net-fishermen, but there is a rapidly growing number of
spearfishermen. Most spearfishermen report taking 1-3 turtles each year. Charles Henry and his
four friends spearfish daily from Cayon to Saddlers and estimate they each catch an average of
one turtle per month, or about 60 turtles/yr between them. Both hawksbills and green turtles are
shot, but mainly hawksbills. Meat sells for EC$ 3 on the beach and a whole shell for EC$ 50;
total profit is about EC$ 200 per turtle (C. Henry pers. comm. to Tim Sands, Fisheries Division,
1992). Netting is largely a thing of the past, except on the Southeast Peninsula. Traditional sites
included Old Road, Sandy Point, and Dieppe Bay, but few nets have been seen drying in recent
years. Most turtles are butchered as soon as they are landed, especially in the turtle villages
where demand is still relatively high. In some cases, turtles may be kept 2-3 days while residents
wait for hot water to become available. The plastron must be soaked in hot water to remove the
horny outer layers before it can be cut into strips and stewed. Eggs are harvested year-around
and, according to Fisheries Officers, probably in large numbers. Eggs are not available in public
markets, but are consumed by the collector or distributed informally (or sold) amongst friends
and neighbours.

The hunting of nesting leatherbacks (river turtles) continues in Keys, Cayon, and Sandy
Point Town in St. Kitts. Hunters' fires were a common sight on Conaree/Canada beach during
the summer nights of the early 1980's (C. Evelyn, pers. comm., 1992). Today there are fewer
hunters and fewer turtles. In addition to Charles Solas in Keys, there are two men in Cayon who
regularly seek leatherbacks; an estimated three females are killed each year (C. Solas, pers.
comm., 1992). The number of hunters in the vicinity of Sandy Point Town is not known, but an
elderly hunter, Mr. Richardson, reported seven leatherbacks killed there in 1992. Meat sells for
about EC$ 2/lb, as compared to EC$ 4-5 for green turtle or hawksbill meat. In addition to meat,
an estimated 20-30 bottles or two kerosene tins of oil are rendered per leatherback. Oil sells for
EC$ 11-12/bottle, compared to EC$ 5-6/bottle "a few years ago" (C. Solas, pers. comm., 1992).
Solas killed one leatherback on Conaree Beach in 1992, but, for the price of EC$ 60 (a portion of
the profit from the meat, sold at EC$ 1.50/lb in Keys) and 12 bottles of oil, he gave it to a young-

Page 19

CEP Technical Report No. 17

er man to butcher and sell. The number of turtles nesting near the villages of Keys and Cayon in
1992 is not known, but, based on data from residents who informally counted fewer than 10
crawls on the beach, the number of turtles probably did not exceed three (each turtle nests an
average of six times per season; see section 2.3).

In the areas of the Cayon River and Hermitage Bay, "no turtle makes it back to the water"
(Telca Wallace, pers. comm., 1992). The meat is eaten stewed or salted and dried; oil is taken
for congestion, general good health, and reputed aphrodisiac qualities; and eggs are relished.
Early one morning in April 1992, two nesting crawls were seen at Cunningham Beach near
Cayon. Both nests had been raided and one female had been decapitated the night before. The
hunters were present on the beach, awaiting transportation to bring the turtle to the village where
the animal would be boiled for oil (Thomas and Diana Honebrink, pers. obs.). The men
indicated that they knew April was the season for egg-laying and they had been awaiting the
turtle's arrival. They also knew that the season was open and that the activity was legal. The
eggs were subsequently sold in Keys. In the next six weeks, the Honebrinks observed an
additional 4-7 nests on this beach. Evidence of vehicle traffic on the beach and probing sticks in
the vicinity of these nests suggested that hunters had sought (perhaps successfully) to collect the
eggs. Eggs sell for EC$ 6-8 per dozen.

Cuisine: Sea turtle meat has long been included at feasts and dinners. This is clearly
indicated in Pares' (1950) comprehensive account of the history of the Pinney family's sugar
plantation business in Nevis from 1685 to 1850. He wrote, "When John Pinney arrived in the
West Indies at the end of 1764 people lived there very much as they had done in his
great-great-uncle's time. [T]he picturesque embellishments of life which charmed ... transient
visitors [included] the hedges of pomegranate and cape-jasmine, of lime and logwood [and] the
round of feasts, with turtle on the table at every meal and thirty-two different kinds of fruit at
dessert; ..." Pares (1950) noted that William Coker, born on Nevis and for a time manager of
absentee-owner John Frederick Pinney's plantation, "was long quite unable to get a turtle to send
home to John Frederick Pinney because they were all bought up by the resident planters." Much
later, a guidebook to Nevis would confirm, "Turtle is made into soup or stewed; best of all is
Turtle Parmesan" (Gordon, 1985). Turtle stew is also included in a recent compilation of
Caribbean recipes by the St. Kitts Association of Home Economists (SKAHE, 1991).

In response to a letter from the NHCS (Lead Organization for WIDECAST in Nevis; see
section 4.41), all major restaurants in Nevis, including Golden Rock and Nisbett Plantation, have
stopped selling sea turtle meat in deference to the species' endangered status. Similarly, turtle is
no longer offered at Miss June's Cuisine because "so many people have asked that I discontinue
it" (June Mastier, owner and chef, pers. comm., 1992). Until recently, Mastier had purchased
turtle meat at EC$ 4/lb; buffet meals including turtle started at EC$ 40. Some owners of sea-side
restaurants/bars interviewed during development of this Recovery Action Plan reported
purchasing live sea turtles (in one case, two juvenile hawksbills for EC$ 400) and releasing
them; none could remember being offered eggs. A very large green turtle was offered to Ian
Mintrim (pers. comm., 1992) early in 1992 for EC$ 1500. One local eatery, Cla-Cha-Del, was
still offering turtle in season at the time of writing (stew or steak: EC$ 30 a la carte, $50 full
course). There are still a few restaurants in St. Kitts where turtle can be eaten, such as Chef s

Page 20

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

where the price of a meal in 1992 was EC$ 20. Other Kittitian restaurants (e.g., Balla-hoo,
Fairview Inn) have discontinued their sea turtle meals.

Incidental catch: Incidental or accidental catch, where sea turtles are drowned in active
or abandoned fishing gear deployed for other target species, does not seem to be a serious
problem in St. Kitts and Nevis. Nonetheless, drownings and near drownings do occasionally
occur. For example, an adult female green turtle (42 inches curved carapace length; 230 lb) was
found dead in a net set for sharks in July 1987 at Helden-St. Paul's, St. Kitts (Wilkins and
Barrett, 1987). This turtle had been tagged with number #P1803 and a return address of
Gainesville, Florida; the tag number was forwarded to Gainesville by Fisheries personnel. In
1990, a large green turtle entangled in a "Japanese net" (heavy green fiber netting) was found
struggling just north of Cades Bay, Nevis. The turtle was near death when retrieved and the
fishermen butchered it for meat (A. Barrett, pers. comm., 1992). There is no trawling in
domestic waters. Longlining is just beginning. The industry uses bottom-set hooks. The
incidental catch of sea turtles has not been reported (see also section 4.27).

Tortoiseshell and trade: Meylan (1983) noted that in May 1983, hawksbill shell
(tortoiseshell) sold for US$ 24/kg in St. Kitts. At that time some of the shell was worked locally,
but most was exported raw. There were few turtle products for sale as souvenirs, "presumably
because of the low level of tourism." Similarly, there was "limited marketing" of tortoiseshell
and polished turtle shells in local tourist shops in Nevis at the time of Meylan's (1983) writing.
The ban on importation of sea turtle products into the U. S. is said to have "sharply curtailed this
trade". The retail situation is similar today; that is, tortoiseshell jewelry is rarely offered for sale.
In June 1992, an informal survey of boutiques in Basseterre revealed that selected small items
were offered for sale in the Pelican Mall and four bracelets (US$ 12 ea) and five pairs of earrings
(US$ 12 ea) were on sale at Gold Plus. Also in mid-June, a clerk at Objects of Art indicated that
the store usually carries turtle shell but didn't have any in stock at that time. She confirmed that
the turtles were locally caught and artisans sold the finished items directly to the shops. The
Shoreline Plaza sells tortoiseshell earrings (EC$ 35/pr). No tortoiseshell could be found for sale
in Nevis in 1992.

Above and beyond domestic harvest is the ongoing international commerce in hawksbill
shell plates (tortoiseshell, or 'bekko'), a phenomenon widely touted as the single most significant
factor endangering hawksbill populations around the world. To meet the demands of at least
four separate native industries, Japan has conducted the world's largest international trade in sea
turtles and sea turtle products, focusing not only on the hawksbill, but on green turtles and olive
ridleys as well (Milliken and Tokunaga, 1987). Japanese imports of raw tortoiseshell between
1970 and 1989 totalled 713,850 kg, representing more than 670,000 turtles; more than half the
imports originated from the Caribbean and Latin America (Milliken and Tokunaga, 1987,
updated by Greenpeace to 1989). Between 1970-1987, a total of 675,247 kg of stuffed
hawksbills representing an additional 587,000-plus turtles was imported (Greenpeace, 1989).
Milliken and Tokunaga (1987) note that in order to maintain these levels of importation, the
annual slaughter of at least 28,000 hawksbills is required.

Between 1970 and June 1989, Japan imported 368,318 kg of tortoiseshell from the Wider
Caribbean alone, the equivalent of more than a quarter million turtles; in 1988, Japan imported

Page 21

CEP Technical Report No. 17

from the Wider Caribbean the tortoiseshell from nearly 12,000 adult hawksbills (Canin, 1989).
St. Kitts/Nevis has allegedly participated in this trade in recent years. Japanese import statistics
show that 136 kg of tortoiseshell was received from St. Kitts/Nevis in 1990 (Canin, 1991). The
average yield per hawksbill is 1.34 kg in the Caribbean (Milliken and Tokunaga, 1987); thus the
export that year represented a minimum of 100 turtles. Fisheries Division personnel have no
knowledge of any such trade and consider it impossible that these turtles were exported from St.
Kitts/Nevis. Since it is highly unlikely that the local population of hawksbills could supply this
amount of shell, the most plausible explanation is that St. Kitts/Nevis, a non-party to CITES
[Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora], was named
as the port of export even though the shell did not actually originate here. This practice is not
uncommon among unscrupulous dealers trying to evade CITES restrictions (Canin, 1991).

Over the past decade, a modest level of export of turtle products has taken place between
St. Kitts/Nevis and neighboring islands. Meylan (1983) described an "active market" in Nevis.
In 1980, a buyer in Charlestown was purchasing shell from fishermen around the island for US$
16/kg and reselling it to a dealer from St. Lucia. The price in 1983 ranged from US$ 16-24.
Other buyers from Puerto Rico, Dominica, and Guadeloupe periodically canvassed the fishermen
at their homes for raw shell material. Wilkins and Barrett (1987) also noted the "occasional sale"
of shells to buyers from neighboring islands. Barrett (1988) reported, "Turtles are slaughtered
and sold by fishermen themselves to the public, hoteliers, and restaurants on the island. A total
of 1000 pounds [of meat was] exported to St. Barthelemew. The hawksbill shells are sold to
local craftsmen for EC$ 30 per pound. . Some of the shells were also exported to St.
Barthelemew." In October 1991, several sources reported to the NHCS that 1400 lb (636 kg) of
turtle meat had been exported to a buyer in St. Barthelemew. It was common knowledge
amongst Nevis divers, fishermen, and Fisheries personnel interviewed for this report that turtle
meat is routinely sold to neighboring islands, especially St. Barthelemew, but also St. Martin
and perhaps others. Meat sells in Nevis for EC$ 3-5/lb, but a fishermen reportedly earn about
US$ 5/lb by selling it through a middleman in St. Barthelemew. Turtle meat sometimes leaves
the country by air (labeled simply, "meat") and other times by boat.

3.4 Inadequate Regulatory Mechanisms

National fisheries legislation was in force between 1948 and 1992 that protected small
sea turtles (under 20 lb, or 9 kg) and established a closed season between 1 June-30 September.
For a variety of reasons, this legislation was inadequate to prevent a significant decline in local
sea turtle populations. First, the closed season did not encompass peak nesting periods (1
April-30 November) and thus allowed the continued harvest of gravid females. In addition, by
protecting only very young (small) turtles, the most valuable members of the population (i.e., the
large juveniles and adults) could be legally taken eight months of the year. We now know that
population stability depends on high rates of survival for large juvenile and adult turtles that have
already endured the two decades or more needed to reach maturity (or near-maturity). Second,
enforcement was nonexistent and fishermen often disregarded the regulations (CCA, 1991).
d'Arbeau (1989) described the closed season as "generally ineffective" and reported green turtle
meat for sale in St. Kitts during the closed season.

Page 22

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

In light of the decline of nesting turtles on the beaches of St. Kitts and Nevis (section 3.3)
and in recognition that turtles are declining throughout the Wider Caribbean region, it is a
recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis
implement the OECS harmonized legislation, which calls for a moratorium on the harvest of sea
turtles and their eggs throughout the region. Sea turtles are a shared resource in the Caribbean
basin, meaning that all countries must work together to achieve conservation goals. Further
discussion of this recommendation, as well as a presentation of options and alternatives, is
provided in section 4.23. In addition to inadequate fisheries legislation, there are no protected
areas established for the benefit of sea turtles, conservation law enforcement could be greatly
improved, and international treaties designed to protect endangered species in the Wider Carib-
bean, such as CITES and the Cartagena Convention (see section 4.3), have not been ratified.

With regard to regulatory mechanisms in general, the National Conservation and
Environment Protection Act (NCEPA) of 1987 is relevant to nesting beach conservation and
protected area designation. The Act provides for the establishment and administration of
national parks, historic and archaeological sites, and other areas of natural or cultural interest.
The Act allows for the establishment of a Conservation Commission to advise the Minister on
the selection of protected areas, among other things, and declares that the "Conservation
Commission shall promote conservation as part of long term national economic development".
A variety of activities are regulated under this legislation, including sand mining and the removal
of beach vegetation. Anchoring, polluting, collecting or harassing wildlife, and fishing can be
restricted in protected areas. Animals (including wild birds and their eggs) listed in the Third
Schedule of the Act are nationally protected; unfortunately, no sea turtles are listed. The Act
also provides for the appointment of wildlife or park officers. The Act needs to be fully
implemented and all species of sea turtle should be included in the Third Schedule.

The Southeast Peninsula Land Development and Conservation Act of 1986 describes the
power and functions of the Southeast Peninsula Land Development and Conservation Board to
include maintaining the environmental quality of the Southeast Peninsula. The Board is charged
with making recommendations concerning zoning, pollution control, and the development and
implementation of an environmental protection plan; carrying out planning studies; and
monitoring development schemes. By the power vested in them by the Act, the Board has
prepared both a Southeast Peninsula Land Use Management Plan and comprehensive
Development Guidelines (Ministry of Development, 1989a,b). These include coast conservation
measures. Further, the Act designates the Southeast Peninsula as a "conservation area", wherein
a permit from the Minister is needed to willfully kill, wound or take any wild animal or wild
bird. The reference to "any wild animal" would logically include any marine turtle nesting on a
peninsula beach. Nevertheless, the Act has never been so applied. The Act needs to be fully
implemented in all respects, including the protection of depleted species.

The following recommendations were made to Government at the Follow-up Conference
to the Country Environmental Profile of St. Kitts and Nevis (SCHS, 1991) and are endorsed by
this Recovery Action Plan.

(1) Coastal and Marine Resources Group -

Raise public awareness of and concern for the importance of marine life,

Page 23

CEP Technical Report No. 17

Ratify all pertinent treaties that would help to protect marine resources,
Adopt and enforce the Fisheries Act and revise and implement the Fisher-
ies Regulations,
Consolidate planning agencies (Planning Unit, SEP Land Development
and Conservation Board, Frigate Bay Development Board) and recruit
marine resource experts to serve on a centralized planning board,
Further develop policies requiring Environmental Impact Assessments,
including a short list of consultants qualified to do EIAs and to initiate a
plan of surveillance (monitoring, enforcement) to ensure that development
projects adhere to the conditions established by the EIA,
Even in the absence of complete data, proceed with management steps to
eliminate the overfishing problem and at the same time seek to establish a
system of data-gathering in support of management objectives.

(2) Land Use, Planning and Institutional Framework Group -

Establish a National Planning Task Force comprised of representatives
from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Development, Conservation
Commission, Legal Department, Chamber of Commerce, SCHS, and NHCS.
Establish a permanent (integrated) National Development Control Authori-
ty comprised of a policy-making body with enforcement powers which will
replace existing Boards and/or Committees. This authority should include
the Ministry of Development, Ministry of Finance, Legal Department,
Skantel, and the Chamber of Commerce.
Review and update existing legislation related to land use and building de-
velopment, and create new legislation where necessary.
Strengthen existing institutions.

Similarly, the Final Report on the Nevis Environment Planning Conference (28-29
January 1992) highlighted three major recommendations on the subject of regulatory
mechanisms: (1) a committee of senior level people representing sectors of Nevis with an interest
in the environment is needed to provide advice to the Government, (2) a qualified Environmental
Officer is needed to oversee the proposed environmental developments in Nevis, and (3) the
merging of the Town and Country Planning Board and the Building Board into a new
Development Control Authority should proceed "as soon as possible." In the area of Coastal and
Marine Resources, the Meeting discussed inadequate regulatory mechanisms and/or enforcement
in the areas of coastal zone management and construction, and suggested that the Protected Area
provisions of NCEPA be fully engaged toward the successful conservation of specific critical
habitats (Nevis Island Administration and NHCS, 1992).

Finally, the enforcement of regulations would be greatly enhanced by the creation and
staffing of a Division of Conservation Enforcement. This might be accomplished by making
minor institutional adjustments to the existing Division of Conservation (Department of
Agriculture). Alternatively, if the oft-repeated proposal to create a Department or Ministry of the
Environment for the purpose of consolidating the environmental programmes and obligations of
the Government were to be realized, then this Department (or Ministry) should logically have a

Page 24

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

Division of Conservation Enforcement to enforce all aspects of environmental law, including the
conservation and management of species (see section 4.24).

3.5 Other Natural or Man-made Factors

It is not uncommon for beaches to experience severe erosion after tropical storms, such as
occurred at Pinneys Beach (Nevis) and Sandy Point Beach (St. Kitts) after Hurricane Klaus in
1984 (Wilkins and Barrett, 1987). Towle et al. (1986) document severe coastal erosion of
Southeast Peninsula beaches, particularly the channel beaches, during Hurricanes Frederick and
David in 1979 and Klaus in 1984. Residents often credit Hurricane Klaus with the loss of
several nesting beaches on the Caribbean coast of St. Kitts, from Old Road Bay to Garvey's Bay.
These are comprised of cobbles today and no longer support nesting. Cambers (1989a) reported
significant damage done to potentially important nesting beaches by Hurricane Hugo. At
Pinneys Beach, she documented 4-8 m erosion in the southern portion (and the loss of many
palm trees) and >15 m erosion to the north near Golden Rock Beach Bar which was destroyed in
the storm. Huge amounts of debris were left on nesting beaches at Cade's Bay and Mosquito
Bay. Overall, Hurricane Hugo resulted in the average loss of 45% of the area of west coast
beaches on Nevis (Cambers, 1989b).

Cambers (1989b) stated that the "serious nature of the erosion on the west and north coast
beaches cannot be over-emphasised. Data exist for one site at Pinneys Beach which show that
between 1983 and 1989 the high water mark retreated inland some 19 m, this represents an
erosion rate of some 3 m (10 ft) per year." In a follow-up study, she reported that the average
beach width in St. Kitts declined 2.5 m (8 ft) per year between August 1989 and December 1992,
mostly as a result of the loss of the Dieppe Spit to Hurricane Hugo. Had the spit remained intact,
however, the annual loss would still have averaged 0.8 m (2.6 ft). Even this lower rate
represents a dramatic loss compared to other rates throughout the region (Cambers, 1992).
d'Arbeau (1989) reported severe erosion at Major's Bay, a significant hawksbill nesting site on
the Southeast Peninsula, which "created a formidable barrier to any turtle attempting to reach
land" on the northern end of the sandy beach in mid-1989. She also noted the accumulation of
garbage, especially on the windward (Atlantic) beaches of the peninsula, beach scarring by
vehicle traffic, and the removal of vegetation which may limit nesting sites for hawksbills.

Vehicles driven on beaches is a problem, notably at Sand Bank Bay, St. Kitts. Signs
requesting that vehicles not operate on the beach have not been effective. Specific public
education is required in this regard. Riding horses on some beaches, such as Newcastle and
Pinneys, may also have a negative effect on sea turtle nests by crushing eggs and hatchlings.
Evening campfires, especially common at Banana and Cockleshell bays, may inhibit nesting. On
both islands, small beach fires (such as smoke fires to repel insects) are occasionally seen. There
is no evidence that these negatively impact sea turtles, but beach fires should be monitored to
prevent large blazes that may destroy incubating eggs or disorient adult or hatchling turtles. An
unquantified number of hatchlings are collected as pets for children each year (see Appendix I).
This poses a direct threat to the survival of sea turtle populations.

Tar balls are very common on the Atlantic beaches of St. Kitts and less so on the channel
beaches. Deforestation at Paradise in 1991 caused considerable erosion and siltation of the near-

Page 25

CEP Technical Report No. 17

shore marine zone (J. Robinson, pers. comm., 1992). Personal watercraft ("jet skis") are a
relatively new phenomena and are in use at South Friar's Bay. Jet skis have the potential to kill
sea turtles on impact; injury and mortality from this source should be monitored. Windsurfers
sometimes strike turtles at sea (Monty Bassett, pers. comm., 1992). Boat strikes are also a
potential problem.


4.1 Manage and Protect Habitat

It is intuitive that in order to conserve the marine resources of St. Kitts/Nevis, especially
depleted species such as sea turtles, the habitats upon which these species depend must be
protected. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, including setting aside areas as
National Parks or Wildlife Reserves. Where protected area status is not feasible, regulatory
guidelines must be enforced to restrict potentially harmful activities. In the marine environment,
harmful activities can be defined to include indiscriminate anchoring, chemical pollution, and
other degradation to coral reefs and sea grass. On land, the protection of nesting beaches
requires strict controls on sand mining, coastal lighting, beach armouring, etc. The first step in
the effective management of habitat is to identify which areas are truly important (section 4.11).
Once this has been accomplished, specific management plans can be designed and zoning or
other regulations implemented (section 4.12). The protection of habitat important to the survival
of sea turtles should occur within a larger coastal zone management framework. Coral, sea grass
and beaches, all ecosystems crucially important to sea turtles, are also essential for the long-term
sustainability of the economy of St. Kitts/Nevis, including commercial and recreational fisheries,
coastal development, and tourism.

In the sections that follow, the identification of habitat important to turtles is discussed, as
are recommendations and mechanisms for the long term preservation of these habitats.
Recommendations are underlined for ease of reference.

4.11 Identify essential habitat

With respect to sea turtles in St. Kitts/Nevis, two broad types of marine habitat are
considered essential: sea grass and coral reefs. Green turtles depend almost exclusively on sea
grasses for food (section 2.2) and loggerheads consume a wide variety of invertebrates (section
2.1), many of whom depend on sea grass for some part of their life cycle. Protection of sea grass
is, therefore, vital for the survival and recovery of sea turtles. The great value of healthy sea
grass beds should not be defined solely in terms of sea turtles, however. Sea grasses are
characterized by an extensive root and rhizome system, dense leaf cover, high growth rates, and
high organic productivity that rivals some of the most intensive agricultural crops. Sea grasses
exert considerable influence over their environment. Their exceptionally high productivity is
supplemented by that of associated epiphytic algae and benthic and planktonic micro-algae,
which together provide food for a wide variety of marine animals.

Page 26

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

Meadows of broad leaved "turtle grass" (Thalassia testudinum) and more slender "mana-
tee grass" (Syringodium filiforme) are particularly vital as a nursery areas for commercially
important fishes and invertebrates (queen conch, spiny lobster) who depend on grassbed habitat
for continued survival. Sea grasses, with their extensive root system, prevent the suspension of
sediments, thus stabilising sand and other sediments. The leafy canopy slows water movement
and filters the water column. Once the sea grass cover is removed, the many ecological contribu-
tions of the grasses are lost, turbidity increases, and it becomes nearly impossible for new grass
to recolonize the area (Wilcox, 1989). Sea grass can be damaged or eliminated by many factors,
most notably pollution, sedimentation, and anchoring. Sedimentation (smothering grasses with
silt and dirt) commonly results from dredging or land-based run-off, the latter often associated
with upland deforestation or other clearing of vegetation. The most important sea grass com-
munities are situated around the Southeast Peninsula and Sandy Point area of St. Kitts, and off
the north and west coasts of Nevis. Requests to physically uproot large areas of sea grasses (e.g.,
Casablanca Hotel recently asked permission to clear the sea grass in Cockleshell Bay to a depth
of 1.5 m for aesthetic reasons) should be rejected.

Coral reef communities are also important. Coral reefs provide shelter to all sea turtles,
except the giant leatherback. The reef is also a source of food for hawksbill turtles, which con-
sume mainly reef-associated sponges (section 2.4), and for loggerhead turtles (section 2.1).
Wilcox (1989), in her study of the marine resources of the Southeast Peninsula of St. Kitts, noted
that in order to grow and flourish, coral reefs need clear, clean water and relatively high wave
energy. In return, a healthy reef system, especially the barrier type of reef, continually acts to
reduce incoming wave energy and provides a source of beach sand. Coral reefs are also critical
habitat for the majority of bottom-dwelling or demersal fish living in nearshore areas of the
Caribbean. As such, reefs are vital not only for sea turtles in St. Kitts/Nevis, but also for a wide
variety of commercially important fishes. More than 300 fish species are found on Eastern
Caribbean coral reefs, and approximately 180 of these are used for human consumption
(Goodwin et al., 1986). The most important living coral communities in St. Kitts are found
around the Southeast Peninsula and all along the Atlantic coast (Figure 4). There are well
developed but smaller coral reefs offshore Sandy Point Town and Old Road Town. In Nevis, the
most extensive reefs are found off the northern and southwestern coastlines (Figure 6).

In addition to essential marine habitat, many of the sandy beaches in St. Kitts/Nevis are
used by sea turtles for nesting (section 4.112). The protection of sandy beaches is an important
component of any effort to conserve and perpetuate populations of sea turtle that breed in St.
Kitts and Nevis. Sea turtles return to the area where they were hatched when the time comes to
lay their own eggs. Shoreline development, coastal armouring, sand mining, and general activity
at or proximal to a nesting beach can reduce or eliminate the capacity of the beach to support sea
turtle nesting and the successful incubation of eggs. Sound management of the beach resource is
imperative. Orme (1989) provides guidelines for planning and development of the nine major
beaches of the Southeast Peninsula, as well as within the coastal environment of the peninsula in
general. The Southeast Peninsula Land Development and Conservation Board later developed
detailed guidelines for development of the peninsula, as well as a strategy for managing land use
(Ministry of Development, 1989a,b). Many of these guidelines and recommendations are cited
elsewhere in this Recovery Action Plan (e.g., sections 4.122, 4.13).

Page 27

CEP Technical Report No. 17

4.111 Survey foraging areas

"Turtles are seen almost everywhere by divers and seine fishermen" (Wilkins and Barrett,
1987), but surveys designed to define specific foraging grounds (=feeding areas) have not been
undertaken. Based on opportunistic sightings and other informal reports, the sites most visited
by turtles include in St. Kitts: Dieppe Bay to Sandy Point, Old Road to Basseterre, the entire
Southeast Peninsula (foraging grounds adjoining nesting beaches seem to be the most popular),
and Conaree north to Cayon; in Nevis: Black Bay, Indian Castle, and Charlestown to Newcastle.
During beach surveys conducted in preparation for Second Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium
(WATS II), juvenile green and hawksbill turtles were observed in foraging areas off Sandy Point,
St. Kitts (Wilkins and Barrett, 1987). The fishermen who operate around the reefs and shoals of
the Landing Bay (Nevis) area "always see a number of small turtles, estimated weight 10-15 lbs"
(Wilkins and Barrett, 1987). Green turtles have been frequently sighted feeding along the
southern coast of Nevis and hawksbills are reported in west coast waters adjacent Cades Bay
(Young et al., 1988 in CCA, 1991).

The channel between the two islands (referred to as The Narrows) is good habitat for
turtles and the adjoining sea grass meadows and coral reefs surrounding the Southeast Peninsula
provide some of the most important feeding habitat for green turtles and hawksbills in the
country (Meylan, 1983; Wilkins and Barrett, 1998; Wilcox, 1989; Campbell Evelyn, pers.
comm., 1989). Available data suggest that the south (Caribbean) coast of the Peninsula is most
important for foraging; however, it is quite possible that coral reefs along the Atlantic coast also
serve as important feeding and refuge habitats, especially for the hawksbill turtle. The most
important feeding areas for green turtles in Peninsula waters appear to be Major's Bay and the
Caribbean shore between Nag's Head and Whitehouse Bay (Eckert, 1989). Leatherback turtles
may feed on jellyfish and related animals in deep offshore waters while in the Caribbean (Eckert
et al., 1989), but no information about potential feeding areas around St. Kitts/Nevis is available.

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that field surveys be designed and
implemented to define the extent to which sea grass and coral reef communities are utilised as
foraging grounds by resident and itinerant populations of sea turtles. With these data, relatively
important foraging grounds can be identified and specific conservation measures developed. In
the absence of such survey data, foraging grounds must be considered coincident with sea grass
and coral reef communities, implying that protective measures (see section 4.122) should be
developed to apply to all zones of healthy of sea grass and coral. Protecting sea grass and coral
in general has the added benefit of safeguarding the nation's fisheries and tourism industries.

4.112 Survey nesting habitat

As part of a survey of marine turtles in the Leeward Islands, Meylan (1983) reported that
"the best nesting habitat for turtles [in St. Kitts] is on the Atlantic coast, where an extensive
beach stretches more or less continuously from the Cayon River to North Frigate Bay. There are
also several small beaches around the tip of the southeastern peninsula." In a report prepared for
WATS I, Wilkins and Meylan (1984) noted that Sandy Point, Conaree, Majors Bay, Cockleshell
Bay, Sand Bank Bay, and North Friar's Bay were the "main nesting beaches in St. Kitts." They
also indicated green turtle and/or hawksbill nesting at Newton Ground, Dieppe Bay, Sandy Bay,

Page 28

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

Mosquito Bay, Garvey's, Challengers, and Ballast Bay. There are relatively few suitable beaches
in Nevis: these are Pinneys on the west coast, a few small beaches on the south coast (Indian
Castle Estate, White Bay, Landing Bay), and Cades Bay, Hurricane Hill, and Newcastle Bay on
the north and northwest coasts. The hawksbill appears to be the most common nester on Nevis.
Declines in the nesting population have been observed; for example, there is virtually no nesting
at Pinneys Beach anymore (A. Barrett, pers. comm., 1991). Periodic nesting surveys were
conducted on Nevis under the direction of Assistant Fisheries Officer Audra Barrett in 1987 and

Two beaches reported to be used by sea turtles in St. Kitts were selected for surveys in
preparation for WATS II, Sandy Point on the Caribbean shore and Conaree (Key Ghaut to Jack
Tar Village) on the Atlantic shore. Two observers were hired to monitor these beaches between
3 May and 30 September 1987. There was no nesting at Sandy Point; however, at least 18 nests
(including at least 14 leatherback and one hawksbill) nested at Conaree between late April and
mid-August. Selected beaches were also monitored on Nevis in preparation for WATS II, but
only two leatherback crawls were reported and neither resulted in egg-laying (Wilkins and
Barrett, 1987). The same study reported that Landing Bay on the south coast is the major nesting
site on Nevis. It is "well isolated" and can only be reached by foot or boat, depending on the
weather. According to Wilkins and Barrett (1987), the beaches "most used" at the present time
by turtles are those of the Southeast Peninsula of St. Kitts. Wilcox (1989) surveyed the coastal
marine habitats of the Southeast Peninsula and reported nine "main beaches" located at the heads
of the bays, and smaller unnamed beaches interspersed along the shoreline. Until recently access
to these beaches was mostly by boat, but a paved road extending to the tip of the peninsula now
provides access to most of the shoreline.

In anticipation of large-scale coastal development on the peninsula following a paved
access road completed in 1989, two studies were published which assessed the potential impact
of such development on turtles. Both studies (d'Arbeau, 1989; Eckert, 1989) included recom-
menddations for reducing expected negative consequences of commercial development. These
recommendations are discussed elsewhere, mainly in section 4.122. d'Arbeau's five-week (June-
July 1989) survey of 11 of 13 sandy beaches on the peninsula to record turtle nesting activity
made some attempt to distinguish species by crawl characteristics. Leatherbacks leave a deep,
symmetrical imprint 1.75+ m wide; green turtles a deep, symmetrical crawl 1 m wide; hawksbills
a shallow, asymmetrical imprint <0.8 m wide and typically nest near or within vegetation. The
results of the study are summarized in Table 1. A useful physical description of each beach was
also provided by d'Arbeau. She pointed out that identifying crawls was often difficult (especially
as tracks aged) due to livestock tracks on the beach, human activity and vehicle traffic, dense
accumulations of sea grass, and the steady movement of sand caused by the wind.

In 1992, the SCHS solicited assistance from local residents to survey six known nesting
beaches on the SEP (late June-early August) as part of a Biodiversity Project funded by the
Island Resources Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund. Rick Caldwell surveyed Banana Bay
(29 June-23 July, no nests); Ricky Pereira, Mosquito Bay (29 June-21 July, no nests); Herman
Uddenberg, Major's Bay (29 June-8 August, no nests); and Kate Orchard, North and South
Friar's bays (29 June-12 August). Neither nests nor hatchlings were observed at South Friar's
Bay, although leatherback hatchlings and dried yolkless eggs were found at North Friar's on 6

Page 29

CEP Technical Report No. 17

July (K. Orchard, pers. obs.). Sand Bank Bay was patrolled by several volunteers at 1-8 day
intervals between 6 June and 12 August; six leatherback nests were documented. Pereira also
reported a leatherback nest on Sand Bank Bay in May.

The results of the 1992 survey stand in stark contrast to d'Arbeau's work (Table 1).
Because only a fraction of the adult females in a population of sea turtles nests during any given
year, the number of females (and thus the number of nests) per beach fluctuate from year to year.
This is particularly true in small populations. Nevertheless, it is not reasonable to have 130 nests
recorded between 26 June and 31 July 1989 at South Friar's Bay (d'Arbeau, 1989) and not a
single nest observed between 29 June and 8 August 1992 (K. Orchard, pers. obs.). The
discrepancies underscore the need for comprehensive surveys designed to quantify the level of
nesting on the nation's beaches. In the interim, it should be assumed, based on published studies,
that Major's Bay and North Friar's Bay beaches on the SEP are among the most significant
nesting sites on St. Kitts, with Turtle/unnamed bay, Canoe, Sand Bank, and Mosquito bays also
relatively important and, on the Atlantic coast, Conaree Beach and Sandy Point. On Nevis, the
important areas are Cades Bay, Hurricane Hill, Newcastle, White Bay and Landing Bay.

In summary, with the exception of a few short-term and localised field surveys (Wilkins
and Barrett, 1987; d'Arbeau, 1989; SCHS, unpubl. data), nesting data are fragmentary and
largely anecdotal. Systematic nesting surveys are urgently needed. It is a recommendation of
this Recovery Action Plan that at least twice-weekly surveys (April-November) of potential
nesting habitat be undertaken. A Lead Organization on each island (perhaps SCHS and NHCS,
in cooperation with the Fisheries Division) should orchestrate the effort. The data should be
centrally compiled. Interested volunteers, preferably residents who live near sandy beaches,
should be assigned a beach to walk early in the morning on a specific schedule (ideally daily,
since wind, human, and animal activity will erase the crawls). A log should be kept of observed
crawls. Counted crawls should be gently swept clear both to preclude their being counted twice
and to lessen the probability that poachers will find the eggs. After a period of two years, the
beaches with the most nesting (at least two beaches on each island) should be monitored
thereafter (1 April-30 November, later if possible) as Index Beaches (see section 4.291). Field
workers should receive preparatory instruction prior to their survey efforts (section 4.55).

The aerial surveying of nesting beaches would be comparatively expensive (US$ 200/
day), but also very useful. Aerial surveys are especially suitable for monitoring leatherback
nesting because the tracks remain visible on the beach for several days. Money for three years of
biweekly aerial surveying during peak leatherback nesting season (April-June) has been
budgeted as part of the national Sea Turtle Conservation Project described in section 4.6. Every
advantage should be taken of aerial surveys conducted for other purposes that may include
opportunities to record sea turtle nesting activity. Assistance may be obtained from the U. S.
Navy during stop-overs in St. Kitts, at which time the pilots apparently offer assistance to local
agencies with aerial photography and other requests.

4.12 Develop area-specific management plans

Area-specific management plans are necessary in order to safeguard important sea turtle
foraging and nesting areas. At the present time there are no specific management plans for im-

Page 30

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

portant sea turtle habitat in either St. Kitts or Nevis. Therefore, it is a recommendation of this
Recovery Action Plan that "Sea Turtle Refuges" (reserves established specifically for sea turtles)
be declared under the authority of the NCEPA and that at least one Refuge be declared on each
island. The Refuges should encompass the most important sea turtle nesting areas and serve as a
focal point for conservation, management, and monitoring of sea turtle populations [N.B. the
Refuges should include Index Beaches described in section 4.291]. The Atlantic beach from
Cayon River to Key Ghaut (and perhaps south to Jack Tar Village), Sandy Point/Belle Tete
(which supports three species of nesting sea turtles), and the SEP (which is already a
"conservation area" under the SEPLDCA; see section 4.21) in St. Kitts are good candidates for
such designation, although it would be wise to undertake an island-wide survey, as
recommended in section 4.112, in order to identify with confidence which areas are most used by
turtles and thus would benefit most from protection. In Nevis, Hurricane Hill Beach, privately
owned, should be seriously considered for Refuge status.

Refuge status would not exclude residents from using the beach for recreation, fishing,
etc. Only activities clearly detrimental to the beach and to the turtles and villagers who depend
on it would be prohibited, such as sand mining, garbage disposal, and careless shoreline
development. The harvest and harassment of sea turtles and their eggs would be illegal under all
circumstances on the protected beaches. Since the support and involvement of residents would
be central to the success of a Refuge, we recommend that local non-government groups (SCHS,
NHCS, Jaycees, fishing cooperatives) and/or government agencies initiate a dialogue with
coastal residents living near a proposed Refuge in order to solicit their input and encourage their
support. In addition, it is clear that mere designation of a Sea Turtle Refuge would be hollow
without the thoughtful development of a comprehensive management plan. Management Plans
(reviewed every five years) are required for all protected areas designated under the NCEPA.
Regulatory guidelines developed for the Refuges should include (but need not be limited to) the
regulations described in section 4.122. Wardens should be hired to monitor compliance with
Refuge regulations, reporting violations to the proper authorities.

The first steps toward comprehensive management plans for some important marine
areas, including the northern coast of Nevis (Newcastle Bay to Long Haul Bay) and the
Southeast Peninsula of St. Kitts, have already been taken. In an in-depth assessment of the
marine resources of the Southeast Peninsula of St. Kitts, prepared for the Southeast Peninsula
Land Development and Conservation Board, Wilcox (1989) recommended "a St. Kitts/Nevis
National Marine Park/Reserve around the entire Peninsula, from high tide to the 30 m depth
contour, to provide a focal point for marine management, provide an administrative means to
attract and receive external funding, and establish an overall conservation and development
approach to the Peninsula at large." She provided guidelines and rules for land developers,
fishermen, and tourists. She also suggested that specific protected areas be established within the
reserve, including protection of the Atlantic coast for sea turtle nesting. Low density use of the
Atlantic beaches and dunes was encouraged, as were use regulations to protect sea turtles and
their eggs and nesting beaches. The proposed Marine Parks and Recreation Plan for the
Southeast Peninsula of St. Kitts should be adopted and the entire coastline of the peninsula
should be established as a marine park. The support of the Southeast Peninsula Land Develop-
ment and Conservation Board should be obtained, the proposal passed by Cabinet, and, with the
Board's endorsement, a comprehensive park management plan implemented.

Page 31

CEP Technical Report No. 17

Similarly, the groundwork has been laid for a Marine Research and Recreation Area in
Nevis. As part of a four-month survey of the marine habitats of Nevis, conducted in 1990 under
the aegis of the NHCS, depth and substrate type were recorded every 10 m along transects
perpendicular to the shore line and extending 50-200 m offshore. Baseline data were collected in
this way for Pinneys Beach, Cades Bay, Hurricane Beach, Newcastle Beach, and Almond
Gardens in Long Haul Bay. The short-term objectives of the Nevis marine survey were to (1)
map fringing reefs, sea grass, sand deposits, and marine life communities, (2) assess the general
health of the marine ecosystem of Nevis, and (3) identify potential marine reserve sites. The
reserves would be established primarily for species conservation and replenishment, as opposed
to for-profit tourism (D. Robinson, pers. comm., 1992). The long-term objectives were to (1)
provide data to aid in formulating coastal management and fisheries management strategies and
monitoring schemes and (2) enable the NHCS to make recommendations for comprehensive
coastal zone management policies. With increasing boat traffic, the data will be particularly
useful in identifying anchorages that will not damage coral or sea grass ecosystems. The reserve
will include both inshore and offshore waters and the protection of sea turtles and their habitats
will be a priority. The Final Report (Robinson, 1991) suggests that a comprehensive "Handbook
for Development", such as was produced for the Southeast Peninsula Land Development and
Conservation Board, be developed for use in Nevis.

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that marine parks and/or reserves be
established in both St. Kitts and Nevis to safeguard healthy marine ecosystems, provide the
necessary living requirements for depleted species, such as sea turtles and some species of
commercial fish, and to promote tourism.

4.121 Involve local coastal zone authorities

In order for management planning to be effective, the support of local coastal zone
authorities will be needed. At the present time, three separate entities are responsible for
development planning (including coastal zone development) in St. Kitts. The Southeast Penin-
sula Land Development and Conservation Board is responsible for the area south of Timothy
Hill, Frigate Bay Development Corporation is responsible for the area north of Timothy Hill to
the Conaree Hills area, and the Planning Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and
Development is responsible for greater St. Kitts, although there is some confusion over the
authority of land belonging to the former sugar estates and St. Kitts Sugar Manufacturing
Corporation. These various planning agencies are responsible for sustaining the environmental
quality of St. Kitts and overseeing development of the island. In Nevis, the Planning Unit is
responsible for development strategies, both economic and physical planning.

In addition, the National Conservation and Environment Protection Act (1987) gives the
Minister of Development, in consultation with the Conservation Commission, authority to (a)
prepare and implement coastal zone management plans to regulate development and activity in a
coastal zone and to make necessary Regulations, (b) formulate and execute "schemes of work"
for coast conservation within the coastal zone, and (c) conduct research and undertake
environmental impact assessments for any development activity in collaboration with other
departments, agencies, and institutions for the purpose of coast conservation. The Minister may
delegate certain responsibilities to others, including NHCS, SCHS or the Brimstone Hill Fortress

Page 32

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

National Park Society. The Conservation Commission acts as an advisory commission to the
Minister with functions of managing and controlling activities concerning beaches, national
parks and protected areas. Management plans are to be prepared for all protected areas by the
Conservation Commission.

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that all relevant coastal zone
authorities -- Ministers, development and advisory boards, the Conservation Commission -- work
together with residents and non-government groups in full support of declaring and
administering protected areas for the benefit of endangered sea turtles. The legislation to declare
protected areas exists in the NCEPA, it has only to be fully realized and implemented. In
addition to the federal legislation, the Nevis Island Administration may be able to declare
protected areas under the auspices of Nevis planning legislation; this option should be explored.

4.122 Develop regulatory guidelines

In order for management planning to be effective, a regulatory framework is needed. The
Southeast Peninsula Land Development and Conservation Board has already developed detailed
guidelines for development of the peninsula, as well as a strategy for managing land use
(Ministry of Development, 1989a,b). Copies of these guidelines are provided to prospective
developers and established protocols must be incorporated into all development and construction
plans. Many of the guidelines, such as for construction setbacks, solid waste disposal and
landscaping, are identical to those generally proposed to safeguard sea turtle nesting areas. It is a
recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that equivalent guidelines be adopted for all
development in St. Kitts and Nevis; further, that the guidelines be adhered to by developers and
that the Board not waver or deviate from what has been established.

Regulations most important to the conservation of turtles fall into two categories: those
pertaining to sandy beaches (egg-laying) and those pertaining to coral reefs and sea grass (food
and shelter). Guidelines currently under development for the Newcastle Marine Reserve in
Nevis are a useful model for marine protected areas. In a Beach Management Plan submitted to
the SEP Land Development and Conservation Board, Orme (1989) made several recommenda-
tions "to preserve the valuable beach resources of the Southeast Peninsula and to manage these
so as to minimize the negative impacts of development." Eckert (1989) made similar recommen-
dations to the Board in a Sea Turtle Management Plan designed to conserve the peninsula's sea
turtles in view of impending development. The following points are based on Orme (1989) and
Eckert (1989). Topics are discussed in further depth in the sections) noted in parentheses.

1) Sand mining: No mining of beach sand should be permitted under any circumstances
(section 4.131). Beach sand is a finite resource that reportedly is not being replenished at the
present time at a rate commensurate with past deposition; thus, beach mining implies beach loss.
In addition, the persistent removal of beach sand disrupts stabilising vegetation and exacerbates
erosion. The resulting pits not only invite injury to both humans and livestock, but they
accumulate water and serve as breeding areas for mosquitoes and other unwanted insects. Orme
(1989) also recommends that no mining of sand be permitted in the offshore or nearshore zones
as this material is important to beach maintenance. Orme (1989) and Cambers (1988) both
indicate ghauts (ravines) and interior sites where mining would be acceptable.

Page 33

CEP Technical Report No. 17

2) Artificial lighting: Sea turtles, especially hatchlings, are profoundly influenced by
light. Baby sea turtles, freshly emerged from the nest, depend largely on a visual response to
natural seaward light to guide them to the ocean. In zones of coastal development, sources of
artificial light distract hatchlings so that they turn away from the sea and crawl landward. It is
essential that artificial light sources be positioned so that the source of light is not directly visible
from the beach and does not directly illuminate areas of the beach; if lighting must be seen from
the beach, it should emit wavelengths (560-620 nm) which are least attractive to sea turtles. Low
pressure sodium lights should be used to the maximum extent possible. Low intensity,
ground-level lighting is encouraged. Nighttime and security lighting should be mounted not
more than 5 m above the ground and should not directly illuminate areas seaward of the primary
dune or line of permanent vegetation. No lighting, regardless of wavelength, should be placed
between turtle nests and the sea.

Natural or artificial structures rising above the ground should be used to the maximum
extent possible to prevent lighting from directly illuminating the beach/dune system and to buffer
noise and conceal human activity from the beach. Improving dune height in areas of low dune
profile, planting native or ornamental vegetation, or using hedges and/or privacy fences is
encouraged. Barriers between 76-85 cm high are generally sufficient to block visual cues from
artificial lights (Ehrenfeld, 1968; Mrosovsky, 1970). Ferris (1986) showed that a simple "fence"
of black polyester material stretched between three posts and positioned between the nest and a
lighthouse resulted in the hatchlings orienting correctly to the sea. Balcony lights should be
shielded from the beach, decorative lighting (especially spotlights or floodlights) within
line-of-sight of the beach should be prohibited, and safety/security lights should be limited to the
minimum number required to achieve their functional roles (section 4.132).

3) Beach stabilisation structures: Hard engineering options to beach protection,
including impermeable breakwaters, jetties, groynes and seawalls positioned on the beach or in
the nearshore zone, should be considered only as a last resort. There are already cases of
beaches lost, rather than secured, as a result of armouring in St. Kitts and Nevis (section 4.133).
Sandy beaches are naturally dynamic. The physical characteristics of the coastline should be
taken into account prior to coastal construction so that adequate setbacks, rather than expensive
and often counter-productive armouring, can be used to provide for the long-term conservation
of the beach resource. With regard to the possible development of a marina on the Southeast
Peninsula or elsewhere, Orme (1989) notes that it can be engineered "without recourse to
entrance jetties that significantly impact littoral drift and beach stability."

4) Design setbacks: If development of land adjoining a sandy beach is planned, setback
limits should be defined that reflect the damage likely to be caused to the beach and backshore
environment during a major storm, and that take into consideration beach and backshore
characteristics. Setbacks should provide for vegetated areas including lawns and dunes between
hotels, homes and similar structures, and the beach proper. Setbacks of 30-40 m and 80-120 m
from the line of permanent vegetation are reasonable guidelines for upland coast development
and lowland beach coast development, respectively (section 4.133). Setbacks not only help to
protect coastal properties from storm damage, but also reduce overcrowding of the shorezone,
lessen the likelihood that local residents will be excluded from the beach, and enhance the
probability that artificial lighting will not shine directly on the beach.

Page 34

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

5) Access: The use of motorized vehicles should be prohibited on beaches at all times
and parking lots and roadways (including any paved or unpaved areas where vehicles will
operate) should be positioned so that headlights do not cast light onto the beach at night. Driving
on the beach creates unsightly ruts, exacerbates erosion, and lowers sea turtle hatch success by
compacting nests (section 4.134). Tyre ruts also present a significant hazard to hatchlings
crossing the beach. Where vehicles are needed to transport heavy fishing or recreational
equipment, multiple access points should be provided and vehicles parked landward of the line
of permanent vegetation. Pedestrian access to beaches should be confined to specific locations
and strictly regulated so as to minimize destruction of the beach, including backshore vegetation,
by trampling. Whenever possible, access should be provided by the construction of simple,
elevated wooden walkways built over the primary dunes and positioned to direct foot traffic.

6) Waste disposal: No dumping should be permitted within the nearshore, beach, dune, or
wetland environment of the shorezone. Such dumping as has already occurred should be subject
to immediate cleanup. The fouling of beaches runs counter to the economic interests of residents
and landowners, especially hoteliers. The waste is insulting aesthetically, both while on the
beach and after washing into the sea. Sunbathing, beach walking, and snorkeling should not
have to been done amid discarded household and construction waste. Further, glass and metal
injure turtles and larger objects on the beach can prevent females from finding a nest site.
Visitors should be required to pick up and take with them any garbage or other waste brought to
or generated at the beach. Trash cans and regular pickup should be provided at all beaches. To
the extent that beach cleanup is necessary, it should be done using hand tools (section 4.134).

7) Vegetation cover andfires: All attempts should be made to preserve vegetation above
the mean high tide mark. Creeping vegetation, such as beach bean or seaside bean (Canavalia
maritima), seaside purselane (Sesuvium portulacastrum), and beach morning glory or goat's foot
(Ipomoea pescaprae), stabilises the beach and offers protection against destructive erosion by
wind and waves. Larger supralittoral vegetation, such as West Indian sea lavender (Mallotonia
gnaphalodes), sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera), manchineel (Hippomane mancinella), and acacia
(Acacia sp.), provides nesting habitat for the hawksbill sea turtle and offers natural shielding for
the beach from the artificial lighting of shoreline development (section 4.132). Fires, either for
recreation or charcoal production, should be prohibited on beaches. Fires are a hazard to the
surrounding dry forest, create unsightly scars, may scorch sea turtle eggs and hatchlings beneath
the surface of the sand, and can disorient hatchlings. Cooking fires should be restricted to
designated grill facilities.

8) Marine pollution: The dumping of solid or chemical wastes into the sea should be
prohibited under all circumstances. In addition to degrading the environment for residents and
visitors alike, sea turtles often ingest tar, plastic, rope, and other substances (e.g., Mrosovsky,
1981; Balazs, 1985; Lutz and Alfaro-Schulman, 1991), presumably mistaking these for food, and
become weakened or die. It is commonplace for sea turtles to confuse plastic bags with jellyfish
and eat them. Polluted effluent, including sewage, from land-based sources should be centrally
treated before its discharge into the sea. One environmental cost of accommodating increasing
boat traffic in St. Kitts/Nevis is the dumping not only of garbage at sea, but of raw sewage. The
latter practice adds nutrients to the water which results in eutrophication and algae overgrowth in
shallow coastal areas. One way to encourage boats to install and use holding tanks is to admit

Page 35

CEP Technical Report No. 17

only yachts and sailboats with proper holding tanks to offshore moorings and/ or planned
marinas. See sections 4.143 to 4.146.

9) Anchoring and dredging: Anchor damage is a leading cause of destruction to sea grass
meadows and coral reefs throughout the Eastern Caribbean. It is essential that yachts and other
boats be required to either anchor in designated sand bottom areas, or tie in at approved
moorings in coral reef areas. Alternatively, vessels should be required to remain offshore,
beyond the zone of coral and sea grass (>30 m depth). In the absence of secure moorings, the
demolition of coral reefs and the uprooting of sea grasses by anchors will be quick and can be
permanent (Williams, 1987; Rogers, 1985; Rogers et al., 1988). At this time, there are few
cost-effective systems for mooring larger vessels such as cruise ships. It is recommended that
cruise ships (>200 feet in length) be restricted to the Deep Water Port. Halas (1985) has
designed an inexpensive mooring system (US$ 100-200/mooring) which is adequate for holding
yachts and live-aboard dive boats <100 feet in length. A demonstration of this technology is
available upon request to John Halas, Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary, P. O. Box 1083,
Key Largo, Florida 33037; Tel: (305) 451-1644. See also section 4.147.

St. Kitts does not have a significant history of dredging, but dredging is expected to
increase at the Southeast Peninsula in the near future. Dredging may be required for marina
development and for opening channels to load and unload construction equipment by sea. It is
also likely to be requested for the purpose of removing sea grass beds for aesthetic reasons. It is
imperative that these activities be intensely monitored and permitted only after all other
alternatives are found to be inadequate. Special attention needs to be given to controlling
sedimentation of adjoining marine communities. Severe disruption of the seabed, especially in
living sea grass and coral communities, can ruin actual or potential foraging areas for sea turtles,
negatively affect the natural dynamics of the marine environment, and result in the loss of beach
sand. See also section 4.147.

10) Physical destruction of coral and sea grass: Neither coral reefs nor algal ridges
should be dynamited or dragged with chains in order to provide boat access. Anchoring should
not occur in reef or sea grass areas (see above, and section 4.147). In the absence of the
sheltering influence of offshore reefs, shorelines are often severely altered, resulting in great
economic and environmental losses. The practices of using chemicals or dynamite (sections
4.141, 4.142) for the purpose of stunning fish for harvest are prohibited at all times and under all
circumstances and should remain so. The destruction of coral reefs resulting from these
practices can be irreversible in our lifetime.

4.123 Provide for enforcement of guidelines

Institutional and governmental support for enforcement cannot be over-emphasised. In
order to effect compliance with rules and regulations concerning the protection of habitat, law
enforcement will be necessary. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that a team
of Conservation Officers, Wardens, or other law enforcement personnel be responsible for moni-
toring compliance in protected areas. With regard to conditions imposed on beach-front con-
struction projects, such as setbacks and lighting restrictions, a registered architect, professional
engineer, or other authority designated by the Government should conduct a site inspection, in-

Page 36

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

eluding a night survey with all the beach-front lights turned on. The purpose of this inspection
would be to verify that beach illumination is minimized and is in accordance with regulations de-
signed to protect nesting, and especially hatching, sea turtles. With regard to enhancing environ-
mental enforcement in general, including protected species, pollution, and game and mining
laws, the creation of a Division of Environmental Enforcement is suggested (section 4.24).

4.124 Develop educational materials

In order for area management planning to be effective, residents and visitors (and, when
appropriate, developers and concessionaires) must be aware of regulations in place to safeguard
the environment. Materials readily available to the public should include clear descriptions of
what types of activities are permitted and what types of activities are not permitted in the
management area. Permanent wooden sign boards at beach entrances are one way to educate
users. For example, a sign board may explain that beach fires and littering are not permitted,
pets must be leashed, and vehicles must be parked in designated areas. If the nesting beach area
is closed to the public at night, this should be clearly indicated. Finally, a phone number to
report violations should be provided. Other options include the distribution of informative
pamphlets and repeated information provided by the media. The non-government conservation
community, including the NHCS and the SCHS, can be very helpful in promoting a grassroots
understanding and appreciation of protected areas.

4.13 Prevent or mitigate degradation of nesting beaches

4.131 Sand mining

On the beach, natural sand deposits are important for recreation by residents and tourists
and serve as a barrier against storm waves, thus protecting coastal residences and commercial
investment. Removed from the beach, sand is a vital component of the construction industry as a
raw material for cement. Unfortunately, the chronic removal of sand for construction or other
purposes often accelerates beach erosion and degrades or destroys coastal vegetation by up-
rooting it or flooding the ground with seawater. In severe cases, saline ponds are formed in
unsightly pits left by mining operations, shoreline trees and other stabilising vegetation are lost
to the sea, and entire beach habitats are eliminated. With their loss, the coast's potential to
support recreation, tourism, commercial development, and wildlife such as sea turtles is reduced.
For this reason, sand mining is prohibited by the National Conservation and Environment
Protection Act of 1987, except by permit from the Government.

There are several sites for beach sand mining in St. Kitts and Nevis (Figures 6 and 7). In
some areas the mining poses a serious threat to important sea turtle nesting habitat. For example,
there was once nesting at Indian Castle, Nevis, but with the loss of the beach the nesting has
ceased (A. Barrett, pers. comm., 1991). About 5000 cubic yards of sand has been extracted from
Indian Castle and the source is "exhausted" (Kirkpatrick Consulting Engineers, 1992). Cambers
(1989a) documented extensive mining at Cades Bay north of Mariner's and less activity at
Hurricane Hill beach and Newcastle Jetty beach. Large-scale mining is ongoing at Cades Bay
and Gallows Bay (Robinson, 1991). In St. Kitts, mining occurs at Sandy Point, Belle Tete Point,
Conaree, Wash/Holland Ghaut, and the southeast end of North Frigate Bay. These represent

Page 37

CEP Technical Report No. 17

some of the largest beaches on the island and provide nesting grounds for three species of
endangered sea turtles, primarily leatherbacks. The sand is removed by tractor and the opera-
tions involve large, heavy trucks. Despite the fact that in most cases the mining activity has
remained confined to relatively small areas of the total beach habitat, compaction of turtle nests
by traffic to and from the mining site is also a potential problem.

According to the Country Environmental Profile for St. Kitts and Nevis (CCA, 1991), the
supply of construction sand has been a "nagging problem for a long time". To meet the demand,
sand is routinely removed in large quantities from beaches and ghauts (ravines). However, the
"linkage between continuous sand removal from both the ghauts and the beach-dune systems and
a continuing and worsening problem of erosion in both locations has not escaped the attention of
both policy makers and environmental scientists". In some cases, such as the area south of Belle
Tete, data indicate that sand removal has resulted in shoreline losses to erosion of as much as 20
m between 1968-1983 (CCA, 1991). A recent report (Cambers, 1988) examined the problem of
shoreline erosion and recommended that sand mining be restricted to a few designated ghaut
sites (Figure 7), and that site supervision and a fee of EC$ 20 per load be implemented. The
problem is especially severe in Nevis. Cambers (1989b) concluded, "it is essential that alterna-
tive sources of fine aggregate be sought in order to conserve the remaining beaches in Nevis."

In 1989, a Cabinet-appointed Committee on Sand Mining and Construction Waste
(Chaired by the Director of Planning) was established to examine serious concerns which had
been raised about beach and ghaut sand mining and solid waste disposal. Part of the
Commit-tee's mandate was to make recommendations for sand mining through implementation
of a permit system with fee schedules and monitoring procedures (CCA, 1991). In addition to
regulating where and how much beach sand can be taken, alternatives to beach mining are
available and include inland deposits (e.g., the quarry in the St. James Windward area of Nevis),
offshore mining, and importing sand from neighboring islands such as Barbuda. A complete
study of all options, including offshore mining, was recently completed by a team of specialists
from the UK (Kirkpatrick Consulting Engineers, 1992).

The NHCS and the Nevis Environmental Education Committee have been very active in
educating the public about the long-term implications of beach sand mining. The issue has been
highlighted in the Society's newsletters and members have written to government officials urging
them to legislate stiffer laws and penalties for the removal of beach sand. The Society published
a brief report in 1989 entitled, "Sand Removal on Nevis Reaches Critical Stage". According to
this report, "business and private home construction, as well as sand for fill, is escalating at a rate
that is doubling sand use every year." This is a recipe for disaster, especially for coastal vacation
developments which depend on sandy beaches to attract and entertain tourists. To the extent that
sand must be removed from beaches, the report recommends that sand (1) not be free for the
taking, (2) be wisely used and conserved and not left in large waste piles after construction is
complete, and (3) be considered a national valuable resource and guarded as one would protect
gold or silver ore.

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that specific sites, preferably inland
deposits, be designated for sand mining, extraction fees be implemented, permit conditions be

Page 38

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

enforced, beach mining be banned, and the UNESCO/OEC coastal monitoring programme
("Beach Stability and Coastal Zone Management in the Lesser Antilles") begun in 1988 be
continued in order to document shoreline erosion effected, in part, by sand mining, coastal
armouring, and beach-front construction. It is further a recommendation of this Recovery Action
Plan that the Conservation Division (Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and Development)
hire additional personnel in order to more effectively monitor and enforce sand mining regula-
tions. At the present time, there is only one Conservation Officer who is responsible for a wide
variety of environmental regulations and cannot possibly single-handedly accomplish the task.

4.132 Lights

Sea turtle hatchlings orient to the sea using the brightness of the open ocean horizon as
their primary cue (e.g., Mrosovsky, 1972, 1978). When artificial lights, such as commercial,
residential, security or recreational lights, shine on the nesting beach, hatchlings often orient land
-ward toward these lights instead of toward the ocean horizon. The result is often that the little
turtles are crushed by passing vehicles, eaten by dogs and other domestic pets, or die from
exposure in the morning sun. Nesting females are also sometimes disoriented landward by artifi-
cial lighting. This is a problem in St. Kitts/Nevis. For example, at Oualie Beach (Mosquito Bay)
on the northwest coast of Nevis there was once "a lot of nesting", but today a condominium
development has introduced lights and activity and nesting is declining. In 1990, hawksbill
hatchlings emerging from Oualie Beach oriented landward and had to be collected from the
cottages (A. Barrett, pers. comm., 1991). Disorientation of both hatchling and adult hawksbills
occurs at Mosquito Bay on the Southeast Peninsula (Ricky Pereira, Turtle Beach Bar and Grill,
pers. comm., 1992). Based on information shared by the WIDECAST project, Pereira has ex-
pressed his commitment to turn out beach-facing lights during the nesting and hatching seasons.

Blair Witherington, examining the problem of artificial lighting on the beaches in Florida
(USA) and Tortuguero (Costa Rica), found that the presence of mercury vapor lights all but
eliminated nesting on affected beaches; nesting of green turtles and loggerheads on beaches so lit
was 1/10 and 1/20 that observed on darkened beaches (Witherington, 1992). With this in mind,
some beach-front owners in Florida have switched to low pressure sodium (LPS) vapor lighting
which emits a yellow glow, shines primarily in the 590 nm range, and has little if any effect on
nesting females. While low pressure sodium lights do not constitute a complete answer to this
difficult problem because they appear to mildly attract green turtle hatchlings, they represent a
significant improvement over mercury vapor lights which emit a full spectrum of light and
strongly attract hatchlings of all species (B. Witherington, Univ. Florida, pers. comm., 1990).

An absence of lighting is the best guarantee that hatchlings will safely find the sea.
Where this is not an option, Witherington (1990) proposes several "next-best" solutions,
including (a) time restrictions during the hatching season (lights extinguished during evening
hours when hatching is most likely to occur; e.g., 1900-2300 hrs), (b) area restrictions (restrict
beach lighting to areas of the beach where little or no nesting occurs; the effectiveness of this is
diminished, however, since sources of light several km away can disrupt hatchling orientation),
(c) motion sensitive lighting (sensor-activated lighting comes on only when a moving object,
such as a person, approaches the light; this might be effective in low traffic areas) [N.B.
obviously the light should not be positioned so that it is triggered by turtles crawling on the

Page 39

CEP Technical Report No. 17

beach], (d) shielding and lowering light sources (low intensity lighting at low elevations can be
both attractive and adequate for most purposes; the glow can be shielded from the beach by
ornamental flowering hedges or other barriers), (e) alternative light sources (LPS lighting is
known to be less attractive to hatchlings than full-spectrum white light).

It is important that developers and residents alike understand that nesting sea turtles and
their hatchlings are attracted by light. Consequently, lights, even low pressure sodium vapor
lights, should always be shielded from shining directly on the beach. An effective method for
accomplishing this is to leave or to plant a vegetation buffer between the sea and shoreline
developments. Alternatively, shields can be built into the lighting fixture and/or lights can be
turned off from 1700-2300 hrs (all night if possible) during the nesting and hatching seasons
(ideally 1 April-30 November, but peak breeding season will vary by location depending on the
species nesting). To prevent interior lights from illuminating the beach, one or a combination of
the following window treatments should be required on all windows of single and multi-story
structures: blackout draperies, shade-screens, and/or window tint/film with a shading coefficient
(the percent of incident radiation passing through a window) of 0.37 to 0.45.

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that lighting restrictions be imposed
as a condition for obtaining a coastal construction permit. As a result of awareness generated by
the WIDECAST project, lighting restrictions are proposed by Young and Scully (1990) in an
environmental assessment report of the Pinney's Estate Development Plan in Nevis. The report
states, "With respect to lighting, special attention should be paid to endangered sea turtles.
Lighted beaches, obstructions, and vehicles on the beaches are all detrimental to turtle
populations. Although Nevis does not presently have legislation to protect sea turtles, other
maritime nations have adopted such measures . .". The SEP Development Guidelines state,
"Lighting shall be modified or eliminated on beaches where sea turtles may nest."

It is further a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that an issue of NHCS's The
Environmentalist and SCHS's Heritage be devoted specifically to solutions, as articulated in this
Plan, to lighting and other sea turtle threats. These publications could then be provided directly
to hotels and other beach-front businesses. Workshops and seminars to alert coastal residents to
lighting alternatives are proposed as part of "Sea Turtle Awareness Week" (section 4.41).
Significant coastal developments on each island, such as Frigate Bay Development Corporation
and/or the Casablanca administration on St. Kitts and the Four Seasons Hotel on Nevis will be
encouraged by local WIDECAST network participants to set an example for other developments
by implementing appropriate lighting schemes, taking care not to drive beach-cleaning
machinery above the high tide line, removing lawn furniture from the nesting beach at night, etc.
Articles in the newspaper and air time on television and radio can serve to spread the message
and provide positive advertising for the hotels.

In the U. S. Virgin Islands, an overview of the problems posed by beach-front lighting
and potential solutions (Raymond, 1984) is issued to all developers seeking permits for projects
which may have an effect on sea turtle orientation due to lighting. Most developers now include
this information in their environmental impact assessments and are designing appropriate
lighting systems (Ralf Boulon, USVI Div. Fish Wildl., pers. comm., 1990). In Barbados, Dr.
Julia Horrocks (Lecturer, University of the West Indies; WIDECAST Team Member) sent a let-

Page 40

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

ter to all hotels and restaurants built near the beach asking two things, (1) that security personnel
report incidents of sea turtle nesting on the beach, and (2) that lights shining on the beach be
redirected or shaded during the breeding season. If the latter is impossible, she asks if personnel
would examine the grounds each morning and "rescue" hatchlings that had mistakenly crawled
away from the sea. We encourage this kind of communication in St. Kitts and Nevis.

4.133 Beach stabilisation structures

Most beaches are naturally very dynamic. In order to protect commercial investments
such as beach-front hotels, beach stabilisation typically involves the use of breakwaters, jetties,
impermeable groynes and/or seawalls. These structures are expensive and rarely effective in the
long-term. Furthermore, because they interfere with the natural longshore transport of sediment,
the armouring of one beach segment can result in the "starvation" and eventual loss of other
beach segments down-current. For example, groynes at the Nisbett Plantation have clearly
resulted in the starvation of down-current beaches to the east (e.g., Cambers, 1989a). Studies
have been contracted to evaluate and propose mitigating measures at this site. When a retaining
wall and stone revetments were erected in Gallows Bay from the pier to Hamilton House, the
beach disappeared within five years (Huggins, 1991). A solid groyne (a loading ramp) was
installed in Cockleshell Bay in 1992 and beach alteration was evident within the first month;
sand immediately began accumulating on the up-current side and the down-current beach is
diminishing in size. At Mosquito Bay, St. Kitts, a low decorative stone wall was erected during
construction of the Turtle Beach Bar and Grill. Waves rebounding from this wall transport sand
back out to sea, potentially accelerating erosion. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action
Plan that hard engineering options to beach protection, such as breakwaters and groynes, be
regarded only as a last resort and that solid structures, such as those erected at Nisbett Plantation
and Cockleshell Bay, be disallowed in favour of permeable structures.

The better solution to beach maintenance is an enforced construction setback adequate to
reduce or eliminate the risk of losing coastal buildings to routine erosion or violent storms. In
Nevis there are no fixed coastal development setbacks; each case is evaluated individually.
However some recent guidelines have been developed by the Town and Country Planning Board
to control development on beaches with tourist potential (see Corker, 1988). These guidelines
provide for a buffer zone of 120 ft (37 m) from the high water mark where no building will be
permitted; major buildings such as hotels should be sited 300 ft (91 m) from high water mark,
and a maximum building height of 30 ft (9 m) is also recommended. These guidelines have been
adopted as part of the Nevis Zoning Ordinance and will provide the Government of Nevis with
an invaluable tool to contain future coastal erosion without endangering the beach or develop-
ment infrastructure. Because of the undeveloped nature of most of its coastline, Nevis still has
the potential to utilise coastal development control as a low cost solution to coastal erosion. It is
a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the necessary regulations be passed in-to
law, that the high water mark be clearly defined, and that conservative setback regulations apply
to all lowland coasts below the 10 ft (3 m) contour.

The following useful discussion of setbacks for the Southeast Peninsula, St. Kitts, has
been taken from Orme (1989). "An optimal setback of 100 m is recommended for the Atlantic
beaches [of the Southeast Peninsula] where storm surges may be superimposed on wave trains

Page 41

CEP Technical Report No. 17

driven by the prevailing easterly winds. The issue is most acute at the larger, more developable
beaches at North Friar's Bay, Sand Bank Bay and Mosquito Bay, each of which has a very active
foreshore, a backshore of variable width, and one or more transverse dune ridges which protect
the low-lying interior [N.B. and all of which host nesting sea turtles which could be displaced by
armouring]. For example, the north end of North Friar's Bay beach suffered 26 m of lateral
erosion in summer 1988 and the foreshore throughout the beach retreated to within 10-15 m of
the primary dune front. This occurred under normal conditions and such mobility in term of cut
and full must be considered part of the natural system. Under hurricane storm surges, beach
erosion and dune retreat would be significant. Thus in these localities, the setback should
include the variable backshore, the foredunes and the first or primary main dune, with access to
the beach provided by elevated walkways or narrow zig-zag paths over or through the dunes.

"The other Atlantic beaches [of the Southeast Peninsula], not backed by lagoons or
low-lying terrain, do not pose a comparable problem and setbacks in these cases, for example at
Canoe Bay, could be less than 100 m, depending on slope. On the channel beaches (Major's
Bay, Banana Bay, Cockleshell Bay), the impact of storm surges in likely to be less dramatic but
there is a window between Nag's Head and the Nevis west coast through which significant storm
waves can approach, as happened during tropical storm Gilbert's development in September
1988. Furthermore, each beach is essentially a narrow barrier backed by lagoons or lower land
which should not be interfered with. Thus the setbacks should really be established at the
leading edge of rising ground farther inland. On the Caribbean beaches, normal wave action is
less dramatic but hurricane surges can still cause significant erosion and over-wash of the barrier
beaches at Ballast Bay and South Friar's Bay. Once again, the barriers should remain intact."
Setbacks should be established in the context of erosion dynamics with the intent to protect
coastal properties over the long-term. In some cases, setbacks may need to exceed Orme's
recommendation of 100 m. Cambers (1989a), in an assessment of damage to Nevis beaches by
Hurricane Hugo, photographed the new beach bar and pool complex at Nisbett Plantation and
questioned whether, in view of erosion caused by the existing groyne and accelerated by the
hurricane, the 120-ft (37 m) setback would be adequate to protect the structure.

4.134 Beach cleaning equipment and vehicular use of beaches

All beaches are littered to some extent by recreational users, by waste (e.g., household
waste, automobile tyres) thrown into ghauts and washed to the coast, and/or by sea grasses that
regularly wash ashore in some areas. In addition, the Atlantic beaches of St. Kitts and Nevis are
especially vulnerable to the accumulation of ocean-borne debris, including oil, abandoned
fishing gear, and cruise ship waste (see also sections 4.144 and 4.145). Many beaches in St.
Kitts are routinely cleaned for removal of sea grass and litter. Mosquito Bay, South Friar's Bay,
and both South and North Frigate Bay are cleaned daily. Although most of the cleaning is
accomplished using hand rakes, transportation of the accumulated debris off the beach is usually
done by tractor and trailer. The operation of this heavy machinery above the high tide line
(where sea turtles may have laid their eggs) is potentially detrimental to the reproductive success
of turtles. In Nevis, the Four Seasons Hotel cleans its beach using a light-weight three-wheel
vehicle that removes debris without incising the beach much more than would a hand rake (Brad
Dow, pers. comm., 1992).

Page 42

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that beach cleaning, when
necessary, be done using hand tools such as shallow rakes and not heavy machinery or devices
that deeply incise the sand. The uppermost eggs in a green or leatherback turtle nest commonly
incubate 20 cm (8 inches) or more beneath the surface of the beach. In contrast, hawksbills
construct shallow nests in which eggs are protected by less than 10 cm (4 inches) of overlying
sand. Damage to incubating eggs (or hatchlings awaiting an evening emergence) is easily caused
by compaction or puncture from mechanized beach cleaning techniques. If raking seaweeds by
tractor or other heavy machinery is inevitable, this activity should be confined to beach zones
below the mean high tide line in order to avoid the compaction of sand above incubating eggs.
Repeated compaction will kill developing embryos and tyre ruts can trap hatchlings crawling
across the beach to the sea. Some commercial establishments, such as the Turtle Beach Bar and
Grill, periodically remove thick mats of beached sea grass using a tractor. Since the beach is
used by hawksbill turtles, care is taken not to allow the tractor to operate above the high tide
mark where nests are made (R. Pereira, pers. comm., 1991).

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that driving cars and trucks on
sandy beaches be forbidden in St. Kitts/Nevis because their weight crushes eggs and can kill
developing or newly hatched turtles. In addition, tyre ruts are unsightly and create hazards for
hatchlings trying to reach the sea. The tiny turtles fall into the ruts, which generally run parallel
to the sea, and because they cannot get out they die in the morning sun or become an easy meal
for a predator. Many of the beaches on St. Kitts are routinely driven on by vehicles of all kinds.
Sand Bank Bay (an important nesting beach; see section 4.112) in particular has become a
compact roadway with heavy use by residents and tourists. As many as 15-20 cars are seen
parked or driving on this beach on weekends. Cars are rarely driven on the beaches of Nevis, but
Windward Beach near Red Cliff is an exception ("it is often driven on by fishermen and even
more frequently by tourists and residents seeking recreational access to the beach"; R. Young,
pers. comm., 1992). A locally-owned vehicle was observed driving south along the length of
Pinneys Beach to the Beachcomber restaurant in October 1992 (K. Eckert, pers. obs.).

A public information campaign has been initiated by the SEP staff to discourage people
from driving on the beaches. Signs have been erected on many SEP beaches, announcements
made on radio and television, notices printed in the newspapers, and fliers distributed to car
rental agencies. Unfortunately, the driving continues. The last alternative may be to prevent
access by blocking the terminus of beach access roads.

4.135 Beach rebuilding projects

Beaches are sometimes rebuilt, or replenished, with sand from adjacent areas when
erosion of beach areas, particularly those fronting resorts, becomes economically threatening. It
is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that rebuilding, when unavoidable in sea
turtle nesting areas, require that replacement sand be similar to the original material in organic
content and grain size (thereby maintaining the suitability of the beach for the incubation of sea
turtle eggs) and that rebuilding activities do not take place during the primary breeding season.
If beaches are rebuilt during the green/hawksbill turtle nesting season (peak: June to November)
or hatching season (peak: August to January), heavy equipment and activity can deter nesting
and crush eggs. In addition, the new overburden can suffocate incubating eggs and prevent the

Page 43

CEP Technical Report No. 17

hatchlings from successfully digging out of the nest. If leatherbacks are known to nest on site,
personnel should keep in mind that they begin nesting in April (sometimes March), peak in May,
and finish in early July.

It is worth noting that there is an imbalance in the system somewhere when sand is lost
from an otherwise predictable beach habitat and is not replaced by natural accretion processes.
The underlying cause can be as direct as an up-current solid jetty or pier that is literally
"starving" the down-current beaches by interrupting the constant longshore transport of sand and
sediments. Or the impetus may be more subtle, as occurs with the removal of beach vegetation
or when nearshore pollution retards the productivity of calcareous (coralline) algae and other
sand sources. [N.B. The National Conservation and Environment Protection Act, 1987, prohibits
removing or assisting in the removal of "any vegetation from a beach in Saint Christopher and
Nevis except under the authority of a permit" granted by the Minister.] The linkages between
development and the persistence of sandy beaches are complex, and should be considered with
great care before construction proximal to sandy beaches is permitted. If dunes are leveled,
vegetation removed and/or jetties constructed, the likelihood of committing the owners to
repetitive and increasingly expensive rebuilding is heightened and sometimes guaranteed. This
is not in the long-term interest of the people or sea turtles of St. Kitts/Nevis.

Beach rebuilding has not occurred to any significant degree in St. Kitts/Nevis, but
authorities should remain vigilant in this regard. Probably the most careless example of manipu-
lation was the illegal removal of beach sand in January 1992 from the primary dune at Sand
Bank Bay and the deposit of this sand at Cockleshell Bay. The imported sand was used to extend
and expand the beach at the site of the Casablanca Hotel under construction at Cockleshell Bay.
The Casablanca site had previously been denuded of vegetation and coconut palm trees planted.
The palms are not an effective wind break, however, and the imported sand remained on site for
only a matter of days before it was blown away. Such "face-lifting" for short-term aesthetic
purposes disrupts coastal ecology, sometimes severely so. The incident was particularly unfor-
tunate because the sand was stolen from a known sea turtle nesting area. Banana Bay beach was
also leveled and reshaped during the 1992 turtle nesting season by landmovers and dump trucks.

4.14 Prevent or mitigate degradation of marine habitat

4.141 Dynamiting reefs

The fishermen of St. Kitts and Nevis do not use dynamite or other explosives to assist in
the catching of fish. The Fisheries Act of 1984 explicitly forbids the use of "any explosive,
poison or other noxious substance for the purpose of killing, stunning, disabling or catching fish,
or in any way rendering fish more easily caught". Even the possession or control of any
explosive or other noxious substance in circumstances indicating that same may be used in the
act of catching fish constitutes an offence against the Act. The maximum fine upon summary
conviction is EC$ 1000. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the Act be
fully enforced with regard to explosives.

The use of dynamite to catch or stun fishes or to remove coral reef structure (e.g., to
provide boat access) results in severe and possibly permanent damage to the fragile coral. The

Page 44

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

slow-growing and virtually irreplaceable coral reefs serve as nurseries, refugia, and foraging
grounds for many species of commercial fishes. They are crucial to the sustained health of the
fishing industry. They also absorb the impact of storm waves and ocean swells, thus protecting
and sheltering the shoreline including commercial and residential investments. With an
increasing number of SCUBA-oriented tourists, healthy coral reefs are an important component
of the tourism industry. Finally, and most relevant to this Recovery Action Plan, coral reefs
provide food and shelter to sea turtles. Hawksbills feed almost exclusively on reef-associated
sponges in the Caribbean (section 2.4) and hawksbill and green turtles both seek shelter and rest
in the structure of the reef.

4.142 Chemical fishing

Modem chemical fishing is not known to occur in St. Kitts/Nevis, although there are
records of chemical-assisted fishing during the Colonial era. Smith (1745) wrote: "The Poison
[extracted from the Dog-wood Tree] kills millions of the small Fry; and indeed I can assign no
reason why they should not likewise destroy the Shell-fishes who lie at the bottom, and of course
are less qualified to escape its effects by passing into the adjacent purer Water." As in the case
of explosives, the use of chemicals such as chlorine and other "noxious substances" to catch or
stun fishes constitutes an offence against the Fisheries Act of 1984 (section 4.141).
Chemical-assisted fishing is short-sighted and destructive. It is a recommendation of this Recov-
ery Action Plan that the Fisheries Act be fully enforced with regard to poisons.

4.143 Industrial discharges

The NCEPA (1987) states, "No person shall . foul or pollute any part of the coastal
zone whether by depositing thereon offal, garbage or other waste or in any other manner."
Legislation notwithstanding, it is inevitable on a small island that waste generated, especially in
liquid or semi-liquid form, will soon find its way to the sea. Archer (1984) estimated that 90%
of the waste water released from industry in St. Kitts flows to the sea through pipes and drains.
Sugar cane and molasses production, soft drinks, dairy products, margarine, distillery, abattoir,
brewery and power plants all produce waste products that enter the coastal environment and
contribute to stressful conditions experienced by marine ecosystems in the coastal waters. For
example, high biological oxygen demand (BOD) waste from sugar production is a major
contributor to the pollution of Basseterre Bay and the loss of coral reef structures in the vicinity
of the harbour. Recently, samples of coastal water that may have chromates from textile dying
ventures were sent off-island for analysis because fish kills were observed nearshore (K.
Archibald, Director of Agriculture, pers. comm. in CCA, 1991). In Limekiln Bay, discharges are
heavy enough to discolour the inshore waters of the bay; caustic solutions from soft drink
factories, waste water and effluent from the sewage package plant at the hospital, and high BOD
wastes from the brewery are implicated in the heavy pollution of this area (CCA, 1991).

The streets of Charlestown, particularly near Gallows Bay, and other towns serve as
conduits carrying debris (oil, litter, household waste) to the sea. Ghauts are similarly used,
despite the declaration in the NCEPA that "all ghauts [are] an area of special concern to be
managed in the public interest" and that any person polluting or littering a ghaut will be liable,
upon summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding EC$ 500 and in addition "shall be responsible

Page 45

CEP Technical Report No. 17

for the clean up of the litter deposited or pollution caused". There is no system for the collection
and proper disposal of waste oil in either St. Kitts or Nevis. Much of the reported pollution at
the electricity plant in St. Kitts is from waste lubricating oils resulting in oil-saturated soil and
ditches. Oil entering drainage ditches combines with pollutants from other sources and is
ultimately discharged into Basseterre Bay. In addition, waste oil and grease from garages are
dumped into storm drains and on the ground. This material combines with oil from street surface
runoff and is washed into drains, ghauts, and coastal waters during heavy rains. Similarly, waste
oil from garages and electricity generating plants in Nevis is disposed of in storm drains or
poured directly on the ground where it eventually washes into ghauts and coastal marine waters
(CCA, 1991). Uncounted small businesses also contribute to the problem. For example,
Warner's dry cleaning and deli facility (Charlestown) which routes detergent waste water and dry
cleaning solvent into the street, where it flows ultimately to the sea.

A recent marine habitat survey of Nevis noted deterioration of the reef structure around
the Charlestown Harbour at Fort Charles. Robinson (1991) speculated that this may have been
caused by oil seeping into Gallows Bay after having been discharged from a nearby power plant
into Bath Bog, by heightened shipping activity and run-off from Charlestown streets which is
causing considerable amounts of pollution in the bay, and/or by the activity of Hurricane Hugo.
The report also noted, "The pollutants are much more varied than previously known due to
newly introduced building materials, cement, oil and gasoline spillage, and soap drain-off from a
local laundromat." It is not clear at the present time exactly what the cumulative effect of
land-based industrial pollution has been on sea turtles in St. Kitts/Nevis. However, it is possible
that damage done to coral reefs and other foraging zones, not to mention debilitating or even
lethal chemical input, will only accelerate the decline of the already depleted sea turtle fauna.

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that investment in infrastructure to
treat and properly dispose of industrial wastes be a priority for both Government and industry.
Routine monitoring for compliance with environmental standards should be implemented.

4.144 At-sea dumping of garbage

The dumping of garbage at sea is recognized as a growing problem throughout the world.
Death to marine organisms as a result of ingestion or entanglement is widespread (e.g., O'Hara et
al., 1986; Laist, 1987; CEE, 1987). Balazs (1985) summarized worldwide records of ingestion
of oceanic debris by marine turtles and listed a wide variety of items consumed, including
banana bags ingested by green turtles in Costa Rica. Several years ago, Mrosovsky (1981) sum-
marized data showing that 44% of adult non-breeding leatherbacks had plastic in their stomachs.
Leatherbacks consume plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish. Some sea turtles have been
found on the SEP entangled in discarded netting and other fishing gear. The Atlantic beaches are
particularly vulnerable to the accumulation of debris, including cruise ship waste and oil. Sea
turtles and their eggs can easily be harmed by encounters with tar, glass, and netting on the
nesting beaches.

In St. Kitts/Nevis, as elsewhere, at-sea dumping is difficult to monitor. Addressing the
problem requires a concentrated effort at public education, coupled with stiff penalties for
offenders. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that an awareness effort be initi-

Page 46

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

ated under the aegis of Government, NGOs, and the media to alert fishermen and recreational
boaters of the need to properly dispose of garbage. Great advances in public awareness have
been made as a result of the NHCS-sponsored Beach Clean-up campaign in 1992. Residents,
including many school children, participated in the clean-up which was part of the international
coastal clean-up campaign of the Center for Marine Conservation (Washington D.C.). Partici-
pants learned how to categorize waste and how to develop a database to organize the informa-
tion. They also gained an enhanced awareness of how much ocean-borne waste litters the shores
of Nevis. The NHCS has recommended that a coordinated national waste disposal system be
designed and implemented, and that advance notice be given to boaters that such facilities exist.

It is noteworthy that at an April meeting in the Bahamas, Caribbean government
representatives proposed that "uniform standards on pollution and dumping . be imposed by
CTO on all cruise lines." Furthermore, Caribbean governments want all cruise ships plying trade
in the region's waters to be fitted with incinerators. They also want them to clean up garbage
"already identified in the Caribbean as coming from cruise ships." Eventually, if Caribbean
governments have their way, a Caribbean-wide "no-dumping" policy will be instituted (Anon.,
1992). By ratifying MARPOL (see section 4.32), St. Kitts/Nevis can support the international
community in taking a stand against the enormous volume of persistent debris dumped into the
Caribbean Sea (and throughout the world) each year.

4.145 Oil exploration, production, refining, transport

St. Kitts/Nevis participated in the development of a Subregional Oil Pollution
Contingency Plan at a Meeting of Experts held in St. Lucia in 1984 and the Government recently
circulated a draft National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (Blake, 1992). The draft Plan notes that
marine traffic, especially oil tankers, using local ports or in transit through coastal waters
presents the risk of marine oil pollution from collisions, groundings, sinkings, oil cargo and
bunker transfer, and other marine incidents. Such pollution can threaten recreation areas, sea
birds, marine life, coastal installations, and fisheries. Response to accidental spillage of oil
requires careful advance planning to ensure that the impact of the oil spill is minimized. The
stated purpose of the Plan, therefore, is to "delineate responsibilities for the operational response
to marine emergencies which could result in the spillage of oil and other hazardous pollutants
into the marine environment." Several objectives were listed, including identifying high risk
areas and priority coastal areas for protection and clean-up, providing adequate oil spill response
equipment, training personnel, providing a framework for coordination and communication,
enacting necessary legislation, etc. One shortfall in the present draft is the lack of an explanation
of liability and prosecution if Government is the culprit. In addition, more emphasis should be
given to cooperation between corporations and Government in the prevention and clean-up of
spills and accidents (David Robinson, Chief Curator, NHCS, pers. comm., 1992).

In addition to attending the Meeting of Experts held in St. Lucia in 1984, St. Kitts/Nevis
was also represented at a recent Caribbean Sub-Regional Seminar on Environmental Sensitivity
Index Mapping for Oil Spill Response convened in Kingston, Jamaica. As a result, civil servants
have received training in oil spill response strategies and an inventory of the St. Kitts coastline
with regard to environmental sensitivity has been initiated. The inventory will ensure better pre-
paration in the event of an oil spill because details of shoreline type and condition will be known

Page 47

CEP Technical Report No. 17

and the appropriate cleanup requirements can be met. Continued regional involvement and train-
ing is encouraged by the WIDECAST project. In order to take full advantage of regional
technology and support in the event of a serious spill, it is a recommendation of this Recovery
Action Plan that St. Kitts/Nevis accede to the Cartagena Convention (see section 4.32) without
further delay. Article 3 of the Protocol concerning Cooperation in Combating Oil Spills in the
Wider Caribbean Region states, "Contracting Parties shall, within their capabilities:

(a) cooperate in taking all necessary measures, both preventive and remedial,
for the protection of the marine and coastal environment of the Wider
Caribbean, particularly the coastal areas of the islands of the region, from oil
spill incidents;

(b) establish and maintain, or ensure the establishment and maintenance of,
the means of responding to oil spill incidents and shall endeavor to reduce the
risk thereof. Such means shall include the enactment, as necessary, of rele-
vant legislation, the preparation of contingency plans, the identification and
development of the capability to respond to an oil spill incident and the desig-
nation of an authority responsible for the implementation of this protocol."

While the greatest threat of a spill or other accident comes from small coastal tank ships
and the bunker fuel of cargo and cruise ships operating in local waters, it is perhaps only a matter
of time before the country falls victim to "catastrophic pollution" from transiting marine traffic in
regional waters (CCA, 1991). It has been recommended (Spitzer, 1984) that the Government
formally recognize the Subregional Oil Pollution Contingency Plan (mentioned above) to
provide a means for working and communicating with other nations in the region during major
pollution incidents. We concur with Spitzer (1984) and recommend further that the Government
implement the draft Marine Pollution Prevention Bill of 1988 which would provide a "reasonable
legislative foundation for addressing the prevention, reduction and control of incidents in coastal
waters involving oil and other marine pollutants".

According to CCA (1991), oil and other petroleum products are brought to St. Kitts by
tanker to the Shell depot or the new Texaco depot just south of Basseterre. The Shell facility is
supplied by relatively small tankers that are moored offshore and run floating hoses to the
manifolds. Shell provides safety and clean-up equipment on tankers that carry persistent oils
only. There is no equipment in St. Kitts to handle the clean-up of an oil spill or accident;
assistance would have to be sought from Antigua or Barbados. Shell does, however, have a
contingency plan that indicates personnel contacts and procedures for getting equipment to St.
Kitts to initiate clean-up in the event of a spill (D. Phillips, pers. comm. in CCA, 1991). Oil and
other petroleum products are brought to Nevis by tankers and off-loaded at buoys in Charlestown
Harbour and Low Ground. Shell and Delta are distributors on the island, and both of these com-
panies import and store diesel fuel and gasoline. Nevis does not have an oil spill contingency
plan. Oil tankers coming into St. Kitts have capacities which range from 8,700 to 37,000 barrels;
those coming into Nevis have an average capacity of 2,000 tons (CCA, 1991).

On 6 March 1991, 13 nm north of Nevis (1718'N, 6218'W), the Trinidad-registered
barge Vestabella, loaded with about 560,000 gallons of #6 fuel oil, sank in 600 m of water after a

Page 48

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

towing cable snapped. The following discussion is taken from Simmonds (1991b). The initial
oil slick was more than 30 miles long. A response committee met on 10 March and decided that
priority actions were to conduct an aerial survey, determine whether or not to use chemical
dispersants, and closely monitor the spill. Later that day, a French Naval patrol boat applied the
dispersant Finasol OSR7. The decision was made to proceed with the application of the
dispersant, with the condition that the effects of the chemical were to "be monitored to validate
toxicity on local organisms". By 13 March, oil, tar balls, and tar balls mixed with seaweed
washed ashore on sea turtle nesting beaches on the north shore of St. Kitts, including Conaree.
Many of St. Kitts' Atlantic beaches were "severely impacted by tar balls", including Dieppe Bay,
Sand Bank Bay, and Frigate Bay. Most of the high energy, rocky beaches (e.g., Black Rock)
were also oiled but the effects appeared transitory.

On 14 March 1991, marine surveys were conducted to assess Vestabella-related damage
and samples collected were sent to Dr. D. D. Ibeibele, Environmental Toxicologist (CERMES,
UWI), to be analyzed for damage done to fish larvae and plankton living in the water column
near affected coral reefs. On 22 March fish kills in the Banana Bay area were reported to the
Coast Guard. On 26 March fishermen in the Dieppe Bay area reported their observations that tar
could be found on "some of their surface gear", such as buoys and rope (Simmonds, 1991b). In
Nevis, homeowners in the Almond Beach area reported oil in weeds offshore and a "slick" about
10 yd long on the beach at Long Haul Bay. On 28 March, prisoners cleaned oil-soaked weeds
from the beach at Newcastle airport (John Titley, pers. comm. to Robert Young). On the same
day, "large numbers" of tar balls about 1.5 inches in diameter could be seen at the tide lines,
mostly mixed with sea grass. By 4 April, there was "extensive oil cover on nearshore sea grass
beds and on the beach for a mile in each direction from the Almond Garden site west to Nisbet
Plantation" (R. Young, pers. comm., 1992). Robert Young swam out to Rocky Point from
Oualie Beach (Mosquito Bay) and photographed tar washing ashore in floating mats of sea grass.
Wildlife casualties will never be fully known, but there were two confirmed reports of fatally
oiled pelicans at Tamarind Bay; no oiled turtles were reported.

Several St. Kitts businesses, including the Turtle Beach Bar and Grill at Mosquito Bay
and Mrs. Katzen's beach cottages (Coral Reef and Vientomarsol) at Conaree, lost profits to the
spill. People went elsewhere rather than venture out into areas where the oil was clearly visible
and risk returning with tar on their snorkeling gear and clothing. Cleaning solvent was made
available at the Turtle Beach Bar and Grill for several months following the accident so that
beach-goers could clean themselves. Sun 'n Sand Hotel on North Frigate Bay had to provide
large quantities of cleaner to customers and guests (Kate Orchard, pers. comm., 1992). As late
as January 1992, visitors to the north shore of St. Kitts (e.g., Dieppe Bay) reported oiled beach
areas and soiled shoes and feet (J. Simmonds, pers. comm., 1992). As of October 1992, there
were still "big lumps" of tar on the beaches at North Frigate Bay, North Friar's Bay, and Conaree
(K. Orchard, pers. comm.).

The Vestabella spill was not an isolated incident. The recent reality of repeated oil spills
in the northeastern Caribbean indicate the very serious nature of this threat. In September 1989,
following Hurricane Hugo, a 42,000 gallon spill of #6 fuel oil (heavy crude oil) at the Water and
Power Authority facility in Christiansted, St. Croix, left south coast beaches on that island
heavily oiled. Pelican Cove, a hawksbill nesting beach on St. Croix, was buried under 0.3 m of

Page 49

CEP Technical Report No. 17

crude oil. On 15 March 1992, a pipe ruptured during ship-to-shore pumping of #6 fuel oil to a
transfer station at St. Eustatius Terminal on the west coast of St. Eustatius, Netherlands Antilles.
One hundred barrels of crude oil were released to the sea in a slick that headed northwest out
across the rich fishing grounds of the Saba Bank. Heavy seas broke up the slick before it entered
U. S. waters, but tar balls eventually fouled the coast of Puerto Rico (Zandy Hillis, U. S.
National Park Service, pers. comm., 1992) and Saba (Sybesma, 1992).

An oil-contaminated environment can be lethal to sea turtles and incubating eggs.
Behavioural experiments indicate that green and loggerhead sea turtles possess limited ability to
avoid oil slicks, and physiological experiments show that the respiration, skin, some aspects of
blood chemistry and composition, and salt gland function of 15-18 month old loggerheads are
significantly affected by exposure to crude oil preweathered for 48 hours (Vargo et al., 1986).
There is some evidence to suggest that hawksbills are also vulnerable to oil pollution.
Hawksbills (predominantly juveniles), were only 2.2% (34/1551) of the total sea turtle standings
in Florida between 1980-1984, yet comprised 28.0% of petroleum-related standings. Oil and tar
fouling was both external and internal. Chemical analysis of internal organs provided clear
evidence that crude oil from tanker discharge had been ingested (Vargo et al., 1986). Carr
(1987b) reported juvenile hawksbills (to 20 cm) "stranded [in Florida] with tar smeared
sargassum"; some individuals had ingested tar. He noted that the Gulf Stream at times carries oil
from both European sources and the Gulf of Mexico into Florida waters. More recently,
following the Vestabella barge spill, a hawksbill soaked in oil was found dead near Guayama on
the south coast of Puerto Rico (Benito Pinto, Puerto Rico DNR, pers. comm., 1992).

4.146 Agricultural run-off and sewage

There are no data to indicate the direct effects of agrochemicals and sewage on sea
turtles, but the cumulative effect of these poisons and high BOD wastes on the marine
environment certainly weakens the capacity of coral reefs and other affected benthic systems to
support life, including sea turtles. Agricultural chemicals are widely used in St. Kitts/Nevis, but
there is no monitoring of their ultimate fate, either in the environment or in agricultural products.
Most surely enter the sea at some point. The twin challenges are to regulate the use of
agrochemicals in established industries in order to minimize negative impacts, and also to make
careful choices about future agricultural investments. Nevis, for instance, is considering revitali-
zing its cotton industry and also introducing a cut flower industry, both heavy users of chemicals
(CCA, 1991). Should either of these options be fully implemented, the use of agrochemicals
may increase dramatically. The use of fertilizers and biocides is not limited to agricultural crops.
Their use is increasing on hotel grounds, ornamental plantations, and golf courses.

Fortunately some progress has been made in the country's ability to monitor and control
the use of fertilizers and poisons. In addition to training governmental personnel in coastal
monitoring techniques, the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute in St. Lucia has recently
provided approximately US$ 10,000 worth of laboratory equipment (N. Singh, CEHI, pers.
comm. in CCA, 1991). Recommendations have been made to renovate an old sugar cane lab
into a central environmental lab for the country, which would include the CEHI equipment. The
Government has enacted legislation for pesticide regulation (Pesticides Act, No. 20 of 1973).
The Act provides a framework for drafting regulations, the organization and role of a Pesticides

Page 50

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

Board, the assignment of inspectors, and a delineation of offences and penalties. The only
regulations in place at the present time are the Pesticides (Labelling and Storage of Containers)
Regulations (SRO No. 18 of 1975). The Pesticide Board, which has not been functional for a
number of years, should be revitalized.

In St. Kitts, sewage is disposed of in one of three ways: septic and absorption pits, pit
latrines, and treatment plants. More than half the homes in Basseterre, which is located at the
edge of the sea, use pit latrines with essentially no treatment of human wastes (T. Mills, Chief
Public Health Inspector, pers. comm. in CCA, 1991). In some residential areas disposal is
accomplished by the use of holding tanks which overflow to soak-away pits. Effluent of varying
quality routinely finds its way to the sea in many areas. For example, the reef at North Frigate
Bay is overgrown with algae; sewage contamination has been implicated. A central sewage
plant for the Frigate Bay area is presently at the engineering design stage; after approval, the
project is expected to be completed within three years (W. Liburd, Frigate Bay Development
Corp., pers. comm. in CCA, 1991). It is certainly unfortunate in light of the magnitude of coastal
development expected on the Southeast Peninsula that there is no infrastructure on the peninsula
to accommodate central sewage collection or treatment; responsibility for this is left to each
landowner. In Nevis, most (66%) residents use pit toilets, the rest use connected or unconnected
water closets or have no toilet at all. Statutory regulations for domestic sewage disposal and
septic tank design have not been written. The first facility to construct and operate a package
sewage treatment plant is the Four Seasons Hotel. Large-scale tourist development at Pinneys
Beach could contaminate adjacent coastal and lagoonal areas if sewage is not carefully managed
(CCA, 1991).

Draft legislation which would establish a Sewage and Water Authority for the country is
pending. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that legislation establish a strong
regulatory framework for the use of agricultural chemicals, a system to monitor the fate of these
poisons in the environment, and provisions for enforcement.

4.147 Anchoring and dredging

Anchor damage is a leading cause of destruction to sea grass meadows and coral reefs in
the Eastern Caribbean and St. Kitts/Nevis is no exception. According to Robinson (1991), "the
proliferation of tourism and added numbers of ships of every type is creating congestion in the
Charlestown Harbour and along the Leeward coast [of Nevis]. There is considerable concern
over anchorage and the dragging of anchors over reefs, sea grass beds, and other sea life. There
are no accurate maps available to locate [important features of the sea bed], thus Nevis customs
people cannot guide ships to safe moorings." Audra Barrett, Assistant Fisheries Officer, recently
notified the Nevis Customs Department by letter that damage to coral reefs from yacht anchors
was a very serious problem. Customs Officers responded with a campaign to alert yachters to the
problem; compliance around Nevis appears to be improving (A. Barrett, pers. comm., 1991).
The challenge now is to educate boaters to avoid sea grass communities, as well, for these are
also ruined by repetitive anchoring.

In St. Kitts there is already clear evidence of coral/sponge damage in Basseterre Harbour
(section 3.3), at frequently used dive sites, and in bays where yachts often anchor. For example,

Page 51

CEP Technical Report No. 17

South Friar's Bay is frequented by several large sailing/cruise ships (Club Med I, Windstar,
Windspirit, Polynesia) that anchor near to shore and damage the seabed. There is also
considerable damage throughout the country attributable to the cumulative effect of countless
fishermen's anchors. Unfortunately, there has been active resistance from the fishermen to the
installment of moorings, especially mooring sites for local fishing vessels. The fishermen guard
their freedom of movement and contend that fixed moorings interfere with the setting of nets. It
is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the concerns of fishermen be taken into
account and that a compromise solution be identified to provide for the installation of a national
system of moorings. The SCHS Marine Division is working toward such a solution. Anchors
not only destroy habitat, but may actually kill sea turtles. Kenneth Samuel reported that a
Taiwanese freighter dropped anchor in Basseterre Harbour a few years ago; the anchor landed
directly on a sea turtle, killing the animal and pinning it against the bottom.

According to local SCUBA dive professionals, live-aboard dive boats visiting St. Kitts/
Nevis, such as the Caribbean Explorer, are "pretty good" about anchor placement, but the cruise
ships that come in with their own dive boats do considerable damage to the seabed. There is
supposed to be a local observer onboard the dive boats whilst they are in domestic waters, but
often this is not done. The Coast Guard is ultimately responsible for enforcing maritime
regulations, including those governing anchor placement, but there is some reluctance to enforce
the regulations for fear that the cruise ships will not continue to visit St. Kitts/Nevis. Anchor
damage effected by the Windjammer fleet is also a growing problem, since they advertise their
ability to enter (and drop anchor in) shallow, more secluded and pristine bays than the larger
cruise ships. In the view of this Recovery Action Plan, it is crucial that the diving and cruise
ship industries be required to adhere to anchoring etiquette. It is a privilege and not a right to
enter the waters of St. Kitts/Nevis, and the privilege should be revoked on behalf of the people of
St. Kitts/Nevis when it has been abused.

To date, moorings have been established in Nevis at Charleston and Pinneys; additional
moorings are needed. In St. Kitts, there are moorings at selected dive sites. It is essential that
yachts and vessels of all sizes be required to either anchor in designated sand bottom areas, or tie
in at approved moorings in coral reef areas. Halas (1985) described a simple and cost-effective
mooring system (US$ 100-200 per mooring) which has proven adequate for holding yachts and
live-aboard dive boats <100 feet in length both in Florida and in the Caribbean. Small cruise
ships (including 'mini-cruisers') also require adequate mooring facilities. Until these are in place,
these vessels should be required to remain offshore beyond the zone of coral and sea grass (>30
m depth). At this time, there are few cost-effective systems for mooring larger vessels such as
cruise ships. Consequently, large cruise ships (>200 feet in length) should be required to dock at
the Deep Water Port. Greater economic and environmental benefits will be realized by
transporting tourists by water or ground transfer to their destinations.

The demand for overnight anchorage in St. Kitts/Nevis will only increase with the
increasing emphasis on tourism, especially on the Southeast Peninsula of St. Kitts. In the
absence of secure moorings, the demolition of coral reefs and the uprooting of sea grasses by
anchors will continue and in many cases will result in long-term damage (see Williams, 1987;
Rogers, 1985; Rogers et al., 1988). In addition to providing important foraging habitat for sea
turtles, the nearshore zone and especially along the south coast of the Southeast Peninsula (in-

Page 52

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

eluding Major's Bay) is essential habitat for juvenile fishes, conch and lobster. Water sports,
particularly SCUBA, will be also be adversely affected if coral reef environments are degraded.
It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that a comprehensive plan be developed to
designate specific anchoring sites and install a comprehensive system of moorings. Input should
be solicited from marine users (e.g., fishermen, yachters, divers), relevant government agencies
(e.g., Coast Guard, Fisheries Division), and local conservation societies. For information and
experience in installing moorings and designing mooring legislation, contact the Conservation
and Fisheries Department (Government of the BVI, P. O. Box 860, Road Town, Tortola, BVI)
and/or Dr. Tom Van't Hof (The Bottom, Saba, Netherlands Antilles).

With regard to dredging, the most recent episode was at Cockleshell Bay on the SEP.
The on-site crane used for the construction of the Casablanca Hotel was used to remove as much
sea grass as the boom could reach. The dredge spoil was left on the beach for several weeks and
eventually evenly distributed over the beach sand. The developer has requested permission to
remove sea grass to the 5-foot water depth. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan
that any such request be denied. Damaging or removing sea grass beds for the stated or
perceived needs of waders and sea bathers should be prohibited. Waders and sea bathers should
be educated about the importance and functions of sea grass beds to their surroundings and to the
communities that benefit from them. Creating channels for navigational purposes can also cause
acute damage and stress to sea grass beds, especially if they are poorly located and excavated.
When roots and rhizomes are removed, formerly clear waters are muddied and the problems of
siltation also affect surrounding sea grasses (see Walters, 1992). Ultimately, the dredging of sea
grass is likely to accelerate erosion of the adjacent sandy beach.

4.2 Manage and Protect All Life Stages

4.21 Review existing local laws and regulations

The Turtle Ordinance, Cap 99, of 1 January 1948 established a closed season from 1
June-30 September, inclusive, during which time it was prohibited to catch, take, buy, sell, and/
or possess any turtles or their eggs or meat. The taking of turtles under 20 lb (9 kg) was
prohibited at all times. Any person found guilty of an offence against this Ordinance was liable,
upon summary conviction, "to a fine not exceeding twenty-four dollars." Turtles (or any portion
thereof) or their eggs found in the possession of any person during the closed season could be
seized, and "any net, instrument or thing" used in connection with an offence was subject to
forfeiture. No persons were ever charged or convicted under this Ordinance.

The Turtle Ordinance was repealed by the Fisheries Act of 1992, which also gave the
Minister the authority to prescribe "measures for the protection of turtles, lobsters, and conchs."
Fisheries Regulations of 1992, made by the Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and
Development under Section 40 of the new Fisheries Act, are presently in draft form. The draft
Regulations are modeled after the OECS Harmonized Fisheries Legislation and therefore provide
for a moratorium on the capture of turtles and the harvest of their eggs. Part VI (Fishery
Conservation Measures) reads: "TURTLES. 20. No person shall (a) fish for, take, sell, purchase
or have in his possession any turtle or part thereof; (b) disturb, take, sell, purchase or have in his
possession any turtle eggs; or (c) interfere with any turtle nest." The maximum fine upon sum-

Page 53

CEP Technical Report No. 17

mary conviction is proposed at EC$ 5000. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan
that the Regulations as they pertain to turtles be adopted and implemented as soon as possible. If
it is clear that adoption will be delayed, then the Minister should consider a special ruling either
unconditionally protecting all sea turtles or enacting interim measures allowing a strictly
controlled harvest (see section 4.23) pending passage of the moratorium.

Also relevant is the National Conservation and Environment Protection Act (NCEPA),
1987, which aims to "provide for the better management and development of the natural and
historic resources of Saint Christopher and Nevis for purposes of conservation". The Act
provides for the establishment and administration of national parks, historic and archaeological
sites, and other areas of natural or cultural interest. The Act allows for the establishment of a
Conservation Commission to advise the Minister on the selection of protected areas, among other
things, and declares that the "Conservation Commission shall promote conservation as part of
long term national economic development". A variety of activities are regulated under this
legislation, including sand mining and the removal of beach vegetation; anchoring, polluting,
collecting or harassing wildlife, and fishing can be restricted in protected areas. The Act also
provides for the appointment of wildlife or park officers. Animals (including wild birds and their
eggs) listed in the Third Schedule of the Act are nationally protected. The Act also provides for
the appointment of wildlife or park officers. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action
Plan that the Act be fully implemented and that all species of sea turtle be included in the Third

The Southeast Peninsula Land Development and Conservation Act (SEPLDCA), 1986,
describes the power and functions of the SEP Land Development and Conservation Board to
include maintaining the environmental quality of the Southeast Peninsula. The Board is charged
with making recommendations concerning zoning, pollution control, and the development and
implementation of an environmental protection plan; carrying out planning studies; and
monitoring development schemes. The Act also designates the Southeast Peninsula as a "conser-
vation area", wherein a permit from the Minister is needed to willfully kill, wound or take any
wild animal or wild bird. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the reference
to "any wild animal" be interpreted to include any sea turtle nesting on a peninsula beach.

4.22 Evaluate the effectiveness of law enforcement

There is no enforced penalty for persons violating sea turtle conservation legislation. No
arrests have ever been made, and no fines or other penalties have ever been levied. Annual
Reports submitted to the Department of Agriculture by the Fisheries Officers alert the Minister to
the penalty clause, but there has been no feedback or support for enforcement from the
administration (A. Barrett, pers. comm., 1991). It is vital that support be visible from the top
levels of Government. Since the Fisheries Officers live in the community and work closely with
the fishermen, it is not possible for them to unilaterally enforce the law. To do so would be to
risk loosing support within the fishing community and to compromise their ability to perform
their duties. There appears to be general support for sea turtle conservation legislation within the
fishing community, but what is lacking is certainty within the minds of the few unscrupulous
fishermen that they will be penalised to the full extent of the law for contravening sea turtle

Page 54

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that Government approach the
challenge of enforcement with a unified attitude. Fisheries Officers cannot shoulder the burden
alone -- even if they had the power to arrest, which they do not. Administrative, judicial, and
police cooperation are essential.

4.23 Propose new regulations where needed

In keeping with the long-standing OECS position that the harvest of endangered sea
turtles and the collection of their eggs should be phased out in OECS member States (and
throughout the Caribbean region), the draft Fisheries Regulations of 1992 prohibit persons from
fishing for, taking, selling, purchasing or possessing any turtle or part thereof; disturbing, taking,
selling, purchasing or possessing any turtle eggs; or interfering with any turtle nest (see section
4.21). It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the Government adopt and
implement these regulations and that the ban remain in effect until such time as credible
scientific studies show that a regulated take will not adversely effect sea turtle populations. The
persistent decline of sea turtles in St. Kitts/Nevis and throughout the region is a reflection of
more than a century of harvest -- especially of eggs and egg-bearing females -- with no regard
for natural population sizes or rates of recruitment. In light of the depleted status of remaining
sea turtle stocks, there is no credible alternative to a moratorium if the long-term objective is to
retain sea turtles as a vibrant component of the local fauna. It is noteworthy that recovery will be
slow, even if a moratorium was enforced immediately. Sexual maturity in Caribbean sea turtles
is often not attained before 20-35 years of age. Thus, the fruit of the conservation agenda we
adopt today will not be fully seen until our smallest children are grown.

4.231 Eggs

Female turtles produce hundreds and often thousands of eggs over the course of their
reproductive years. Each turtle lays several clutches of eggs during the years in which she is
reproductively active. Furthermore, it is common for females tagged on the nesting beach to be
seen nesting regularly (generally every 2-3 years) for a decade or more, laying literally thousands
of eggs. Only a fraction of these eggs will hatch and very few hatchlings will survive the
decades preceding sexual maturity. High productivity on the part of the females serves to
balance high natural rates of young juvenile mortality. It is vital that eggs laid on the beaches of
St. Kitts and Nevis be allowed to incubate undisturbed so that as many hatchlings as possible are
produced. Even under the best of circumstances, the measurable recovery of depleted sea turtle
stocks will come slowly. Without sufficient recruitment into local nesting populations, these
populations will diminish until they are completely gone. It is an unambiguous biological fact
that the continued over-harvest of eggs will guarantee the extinction of local nesting populations,
regardless of any other conservation measures. Therefore, it must be a recommendation of this
Recovery Action Plan that the draft Fisheries Regulations of 1992, which include full protection
for sea turtle eggs, be adopted and implemented without delay.

4.232 Immature turtles

Any continued harvest of the already depleted sea turtle resource is viewed as
counter-productive to the objective of sustained recovery of local sea turtle populations. An in-

Page 55

CEP Technical Report No. 17

definite moratorium on the harvest of sea turtles (all species) of all sizes is urged at the earliest
practicable time. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the draft Fisheries
Regulations of 1992, which in keeping with the OECS Harmonized Legislation include full pro-
tection for sea turtles, be adopted and implemented without delay. It is noteworthy that relevant
international treaties, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Fauna and Flora (section 4.31) and the United Nations Environment Programme's
Cartagena Convention (section 4.32), classify and protect all six Caribbean species of sea turtle
as Endangered. The nations of the Wider Caribbean are moving quickly toward full protection
of these species, and St. Kitts and Nevis is encouraged to participate in this regional effort.

In the event that an immediate and indefinite moratorium on the harvest of sea turtles and
their eggs is politically impossible, then interim legislation (described below) should be enacted
for a period not to exceed one year. During this period, Fisheries personnel should be preparing
the fishing community for a full moratorium. Whilst these interim regulations represent a
significant advancement over the present regulatory framework (since presently there is no
legislation whatsoever governing the harvest of sea turtles or their eggs), they are in no way
capable of realizing the objective of a sustained recovery of depleted sea turtle stocks. They are
intended only to serve as a credible intermediate step toward full protection.

Any interim regulations should restrict harvest to juvenile green and loggerhead turtles,
and further confine it to turtles with a curved carapace length less than 24 inches (60 cm). Small
juvenile turtles are completing a period of rapid growth. If turtles must be harvested, this size
class is more capable of being replaced than adults. We recommend that the harvest of olive
ridley, hawksbill, and leatherback turtles of any size be forbidden. Olive ridley and hawksbill
turtles are seriously depleted in the Western Atlantic and no amount of harvest can be justified,
even on an interim basis. Since only adult leatherbacks are encountered, there is no opportunity
to harvest immatures of this species. With this in mind, the following text is suggested:

21.(1) The close season for turtle until otherwise declared shall commence from the 1st
day of March and end on the 30th day of November of every year.

(2) No person shall:
(a) catch or take, or attempt to catch or take, or cause to be caught
or taken any Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) or Loggerhead turtle
(Caretta caretta) during the close season; or
(b) notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a), at anytime
catch or take, or attempt to catch or take, or cause to be caught or
taken any Green or Loggerhead turtle which is greater than 24
inches (60 cm) in carapace (shell) length; or
(c) catch or take any Green or Loggerhead turtle using a Spear Gun
(Fish Gun); or
(d) buy, sell, offer or expose for sale, or have in his possession the
whole or any part thereof of any Green or Loggerhead turtle
during the close season; or
(e) notwithstanding subsection (a) take, capture or disturb or
attempt to take, capture or disturb any Green or Loggerhead tur-

Page 56

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

tie or the eggs of same found on the shore or within one hundred
yards thereof; or
(f) buy, sell, offer or expose for sale, or have in his possession eggs
of any Green or Loggerhead turtle.

(3) No person shall:
(a) catch or take, or attempt to catch or take, or cause to be caught
or taken at anytime or in any place any Hawksbill turtle
(Eretmochelys imbricata), Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys
olivacea), or Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) or the
eggs of such turtles; or
(b) buy, sell, offer or expose for sale, or have in his possession the
whole or any portion of Hawksbill, Olive Ridley, or Leatherback
turtles, including the meat, oil, shell or eggs of such turtles.

(4) Any person contravening any of the provisions of these Regula-
tions is guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon summary con-
viction to a fine of $5,000 or to imprisonment of 12 months; and,
in addition thereto, any turtle parts, products or eggs and any boat,
vehicle and/or equipment used in connection with the commission
of an offence specified in Regulation 2 or 3 shall be forfeited to the
Crown save and except that no such forfeiture shall take place in
the event of the owner thereof satisfying the Court that he did not
know of the use thereof in the commission of such offence.

Turtles must be landed alive in order that oversized turtles and protected species can be
released unharmed. Thus, the provision that turtles not be speared is an important one. In addi-
tion, nets should be checked regularly to ensure that ensnared turtles do not drown or become
vulnerable to depredation. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that spearguns
be licensed for use in the territorial waters of St. Kitts/Nevis. The draft Fisheries Regulations of
1992 prohibit the use of spearguns by persons who do not first obtain written permission from
the Chief Fisheries Officer. A hawksbill turtle washed up dead on the SEP in 1991 with a spear
hole through its neck (R. Pereira, pers. comm., 1992). In April 1992, Ross University students
speared a turtle in Whitehouse Bay (David Howlett, Kenneth's Dive Ctr, pers. comm., 1992).
Turtles landed legally should be killed as humanely as possible prior to butchering.

4.233 Nesting females

Sea turtles are long-lived and females lay eggs for many years. Adult sea turtles
represent decades of selective survival (sexual maturity is reached for most species in the
Western Atlantic at 20-35 years), they are the most difficult life stage for a population to replace,
and they are (along with subadults just entering their breeding years) the most important life
stage for the survival of a sea turtle population (Crouse et al., 1987; Frazer, 1983, 1989). It is
crucial to remember that, regardless of the expense and care taken to protect sea turtle habitat,
eggs and juvenile life stages, it is inevitable that we will loose the turtle populations that nest in
St. Kitts/ Nevis if we continue to eliminate our breeding animals. It is an urgent recommenda-

Page 57

CEP Technical Report No. 17

tion of this Recovery Action Plan that adult turtles be protected at all times and under all

4.234 Unprotected species

All species are unprotected at this time. It is important that any future conservation
regulations explicitly ban the capture, possession and sale of all sea turtle species and their eggs.
"Possession" should be defined so as to preclude prosecution of persons owning sea turtle shells
and other decorative items legally obtained prior to the moratorium.

4.24 Augment existing law enforcement efforts

Recognizing that environmental law is becoming increasingly important and increasingly
technical in St. Kitts/Nevis, as is the case throughout the Eastern Caribbean, it is a recom-
mendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the Division of Conservation (presently comprised
of a single officer) within the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and Development be
retitled the Division of Environmental Enforcement. A minimum of three officers (two in St.
Kitts, one in Nevis) should be hired to oversee compliance with environmental legislation.
These officers should be trained in environmental law and enforcement procedures and be
responsible for regulations concerning mining and minerals, pollution, protected species, fisher-
ies and marine resources, boater safety, game and hunting, coastal zone permits and compliance,
etc. A Workshop should be convened jointly by the Ministry, the Police, Customs/ Immigration,
and the Coast Guard to better inform all officers of conservation regulations and the urgent need
to consistently enforce domestic and international laws protecting turtles, lobsters, conchs, etc.
A Manual of existing environmental legislation should be developed for public distribution.

Clear and public support from senior Government officials is a prerequisite for effective
conservation enforcement. This would foster a greater sense of confidence among arresting
officers that offenders would be prosecuted. The media and the non-government conservation
community (e.g., SCHS, NHCS, NEEC) have an important role to play in encouraging a national
consensus that conservation laws are important. Public participation in law enforcement is
crucial. Violations should be reported. Complaints should be aired by the national media when
reports of violations are ignored. Divers and fishermen are in unique positions to monitor
offshore damage to habitat, report out-of-season catches, and exert peer pressure to prevent
violations. The owners of residential and commercial beach-front property should be enlisted to
report turtles caught or eggs collected out of season, and to monitor nesting beaches for poaching
and other disturbances. To date, very few arrests have been made for the violation of
conservation laws and fines and other penalties have not been levied. A precedent is needed.
Once an example has been made, news of a "new attitude" toward offenders will spread quickly.
That new attitude should permeate all sectors of society, and ensure that convicted violators will
not be allowed to plunder the environment that all residents depend on for a secure future.

4.25 Make fines commensurate with product value

The Fisheries Act of 1992 provides no explicit protection for sea turtles, but does allow
the Minister to promulgate regulations regarding the protection of sea turtles. The Act further

Page 58

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

provides for a fine "not exceeding five hundred dollars" for a convicted offence against such
regulations as are made by the Minister. A fine of EC$ 500 is clearly insufficient to act as a
reasonable deterrent against the illegal harvest of sea turtles. The draft Fisheries Regulations of
1992 include a year-around ban on the harvest of sea turtles and indicate that "any person
contravening any of the provisions of these Regulations shall be guilty of an offence and shall be
liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars." A fine of EC$
5,000 exceeds product value in the case of sea turtles and should be adopted. In addition, it is
important to provide for the confiscation of equipment used in connection with an offence and
the forfeiture of any turtles, eggs, or parts thereof in the possession of the offender.

4.26 Investigate alternative livelihoods for turtle fishermen

Local fishermen participate in a multi-species fishery. No one depends on sea turtles for
their livelihood at the present time, though in some cases the income derived may be seasonally
important. There appear to be 10-20, perhaps fewer, part-time turtle fishermen based in Nevis;
the annual reported catch in the last five years has sometimes exceeded 100 turtles (Wilkins and
Barrett, 1987; Barrett, 1988). There are no comparable statistics for St. Kitts. Interviews
conducted for this Recovery Action Plan revealed widely divergent estimates of the number of
Kittitians involved in the fishery. The number of turtles landed in St. Kitts each year probably
exceeds 100, all species combined (see section 3.3). In addition to the more-or-less "traditional"
turtle and egg hunters (beach watchers, net fishermen), a growing number of spearfishermen are
landing turtles opportunistically whenever they are encountered. Since reef fisheries in general
are declining, alternatives to turtling must involve enhancing the productivity of local fish stocks
(and thus fishermen's incomes) by, for example, manufacturing and deploying fish attracting
devices (FADs) and establishing marine reserves. Spearfishermen should become more involved
in fishing co-operatives, in discussions of fisheries enhancement, and in conservation initiatives.

In order to collect baseline data, it is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that
the Fisheries Division conduct a Sea Turtle Fishery Frame Survey. To the extent possible,
bearing in mind that formal records have not been kept, the following should be determined: (1)
number of men active in the turtle fishery, (2) number of turtles caught per year, (3) species and
size classes caught, (4) capture methods, (5) capture/landing sites, (6) catch per unit effort, (vii)
gear in possession, (8) gear used and frequency of use, (9) cost of gear, (10) market price for
turtle meat and products, (11) income and proportion of total income derived from turtles. The
exercise will also provide an opportunity for Fisheries and/or co-operative personnel to talk with
fishermen about the endangered status of sea turtles, emphasize the importance of a region-wide
moratorium on these migratory species, and solicit comments and other input. Historical trends
in catch per unit effort are also important to determine whenever possible. Do hunters have to
travel further today than they did 20 years ago to obtain turtles? Set their nets (or wait on the
nesting beach) for longer periods of time? With Frame Survey data in hand, credible scenarios
for enhancing alternative sources of income can be developed and implemented.

The following points should be made when talking to fishermen about endangered turtles
and the necessity for protecting them:

1. Sea turtles are long-lived, reaching sexual maturity in 20-35 years.

Page 59

CEP Technical Report No. 17

2. Mortality is high in young juvenile stages, but extremely low for fully
armoured large juveniles and adults.
3. Adult females average five clutches of eggs per year and nest every 2-5
years; under natural conditions females live for many years and lay
thousands of eggs in order that populations remain stable.
4. Unfortunately, large turtles have historically been targeted because they
provide the most meat; Fisheries laws usually protect only small turtles.
5. Egg-bearing adult females are taken in disproportionate numbers
because they are easily obtained from the nesting beach.
6. Harvesting large turtles, especially gravid females, is the surest way to
invite population collapse (this has been observed at rookeries through-
out the world and is easily shown mathematically).
7. Sea turtle populations cannot sustain the persistent harvest of large
juvenile and adult animals.
8. Nesting populations have been greatly reduced or exterminated all over
the Caribbean, including St. Kitts/Nevis, because adults are not
surviving long enough to produce the next generation (the widespread
harvest of eggs only exacerbates this problem).
9. The fact that nesting populations are crashing but juvenile turtles are still
seen in local waters is not surprising -- these stocks are unrelated.
10. Juveniles travel widely during the many years prior to maturity local
juveniles are not residents, they are a shared regional resource.
11. Adult females return to St. Kitts/Nevis at regular intervals to lay their
eggs and then leave at the end of the nesting season to return to feeding
areas most likely located in distant countries.
12. All nations must work together if this shared resource is to survive.

In addition to efforts in-country, Ralph Wilkins and Audra Barrett (Fisheries Division)
both feel strongly that an international (at least Eastern Caribbean) general fisheries workshop
for fishermen and government fisheries personnel should be convened. In this forum, the
fishermen themselves could become more involved in the issues, exchange ideas, evaluate
alternative livelihoods, explore gear modifications, and participate in regional decision-making.
In the past, only government personnel have been invited to attend such workshops;
consequently, the gatherings sometimes degenerate into merely bureaucratic affairs.

4.27 Determine incidental catch and promote the use of TEDs

There is no local or foreign shrimp trawling in St. Kitts or Nevis. Commercial trawling
does not, therefore, pose a threat to sea turtles locally and there is no reason to promote the use
of the turtle excluder device (TED), a device designed to release turtles from shrimp trawls
before they drown, in the waters of St. Kitts/Nevis.

Turtles are occasionally caught in beach seines or gill nets set for fish. An expanding
longline industry may create an incidental catch problem. The industry currently uses bottom-set
hooks which are unlikely to pull in sea turtles; however, sea turtle catches are reported in areas
where hooks are suspended in the water column. The capture of leatherbacks by longlines has

Page 60

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

been documented in the northeastern Caribbean (Cambers and Lima, 1990; Tobias, 1991), the
southeastern U. S. (Witzell, 1984), and the Gulf of Mexico (Hildebrand, 1987). Leatherbacks
and loggerheads are captured in Antigua (Fuller et al., 1992). Fisheries personnel should be
aware that the longlining industry has the potential to accidentally catch and kill sea turtles
during normal operations. It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that all cases of
sea turtle capture, as well as the fate of the animal, be reported to the Fisheries Officer.
Mitigating measures should be imposed should incidental capture be reported.

4.28 Supplement reduced populations using management techniques

Up to the present day, commercial development of important nesting beaches in St. Kitts
and Nevis has not been extensive. The obvious explanation for reduced populations of sea
turtles is the virtually unregulated harvest which has continued for many generations (section
3.3). Therefore, the recommendations of this Recovery Action Plan are as follows. Highest
national priority should be the implementation of a moratorium on the capture, collection, and
sale of sea turtles and their eggs (section 4.23). Second, important nesting and feeding grounds
must be protected from degradation. Once important habitat has been identified (section 4.11),
regulations designed to offer long-term habitat protection should be enacted (sections 4.13, 4.14).
The protection of habitat should include the designation of Sea Turtle Refuges that include major
nesting grounds (section 4.12). Should the adoption of more elaborate strategies, such as turtle
tagging, predator control, or the construction and maintenance of an egg hatchery be desirable,
methodology should follow that described in the Manual of Sea Turtle Research and
Conservation Techniques (Pritchard et al., 1983). Advice and training is available from the
WIDECAST project.

An individual sea turtle has the capacity to lay thousands of eggs in her lifetime, yet the
probability that a given egg will lead to the production of a mature female is less than one
percent. Many hundreds of hatchlings must enter the sea for each female that survives to
adult-hood. For all sea turtle nests not harvested but allowed to develop, it is a recommendation
of this Recovery Action Plan that it be a conservation management goal to see that at least 50%
of these hatch successfully. Recognizing that there will continue to be productivity losses to
predators, erosion, natural levels of infertility, etc., it is important that Government take quick
steps to protect eggs from human consumption. Where necessary to protect eggs from poachers
or predators, fenced hatcheries may have to be considered. But hatcheries should be used only if
absolutely necessary. The artificial incubation of eggs and the improper handling of eggs and
hatchlings can be disastrous. Incubation temperature is largely responsible for determining
hatchling sex, so any attempt to artificially incubate eggs may skew normal sex ratios.

The occasional erosion-prone nest should be relocated to a safe place on the natural
beach. The decision to do so should be made at the time of egg-laying. If eggs are moved after
the first 24 hours of incubation, the risk is high of dislodging the tiny embryo from the inner
lining of the eggshell and killing it. Sometimes a compromise has to be made. If, for example,
eggs are being washed away, such as by a storm surge, an attempt to salvage the clutch is
prudent. There may be a steep decline in the hatch success of the rescued nest, but this would be
preferable to a total loss. Eggs should always be handled with great care and reburied on a
natural beach, preferably the one where the female made the original nest. The new nest should

Page 61

CEP Technical Report No. 17

be dug to the same depth as the original nest so that the temperature of incubation is not altered.
Hatchlings should always be allowed to emerge from the nest naturally and traverse the beach
unaided as soon as they emerge. Hatchlings should never be retained as pets. Each hatchling is
very important and contributes to the probability that enough turtles will mature to perpetuate the
population. These hatchlings, when mature in about 20-30 years, will return to the beaches of St.
Kitts/Nevis to lay the eggs of the next generation.

4.29 Monitor stocks

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that sea turtle populations, at least
breeding populations, be closely monitored for long-term fluctuations in numbers that will reveal
the success or failure of conservation efforts. Index Beaches on each island should be selected
for intensive monitoring. Volunteers should be solicited to participate in monitoring
programmes; training workshops should be convened as needed (section 4.55). Research to
provide statistical estimates of stocks should be encouraged and a long-term stock assessment
programme to identify trends over a period of decades should be developed [N.B. population
monitoring should continue for at least one sea turtle generation; that is, about 25 years]. A
government office or conservation organization on each island should be designated to function
as a repository for statistical data. The following subsections articulate acceptable methodology
regarding monitoring nests, hatchlings, and the larger size classes of turtles. A preliminary
time-table and budget for the monitoring effort are presented in section 4.6.

4.291 Nests

Leatherbacks, green turtles, and hawksbills lay their eggs in St. Kitts/Nevis (section II).
Leatherback nesting is likely to commence in March or April, followed by green turtles in June,
and hawksbills in July. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, leatherbacks generally terminate nesting by
mid-July, but the other species will continue to nest into the winter season, with hawksbills
active through December or later. Monitoring the deposition of eggs provides a wealth of useful
information, including the distribution and timing of the breeding effort, the species involved, the
location of the most important breeding habitats, and nest fate. Any successful management
programme must be based on accurate estimates of productivity (the number of nests laid) and
mortality (losses due to erosion, feral animals, crabs, birds, mongooses, poachers, etc.).
Monitoring nests will also provide baseline data with which to evaluate the success of nest and
habitat protection efforts. Positive results may not be seen right away, however, since eggs
protected today are not likely to mature into breeding adults for two decades or more.

Nest monitoring efforts to date have relied on reports from residents and crawl counts
obtained by Fisheries personnel, local volunteers, or visiting biologists. The number of crawls
counted has formed the basis for comparison among beaches and among years. There has never
been an attempt to monitor nesting activity for an entire breeding season, nor has there been
reliable differentiation between successful egg-laying (a nesting crawl) and unsuccessful
egg-laying (a "false crawl"). Such a determination is problematic after the fact. Whether or not
eggs are deposited depends on obstacles (erosion bluffs, fallen trees, beach lagoons) encountered
by the female during the course of her time on the beach, disturbance (human activity, dogs,
lighting), the physical condition of the site chosen (she may encounter impenetrable roots, buried

Page 62

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

glass, water; the sand may be too dry to hold a nest cavity), and injuries such as a missing
flipper. If funds become available, personnel should be hired to conduct nocturnal censuses of
important nesting beaches in order to document the actual deposition of eggs. A nest:false crawl
ratio determined from the night patrols will permit an estimate of nest density from crawl tallies
obtained during day census efforts. In the interim, pending financial support for comprehensive
surveying, full advantage should be taken of the willingness of volunteers to walk beaches and
collect data on nest distribution and abundance.

It is usually difficult to confirm eggs during day surveys, but sometimes the outcome is
obvious. For example, sometimes it is clear that a turtle returned to the sea without attempting to
dig. This is a "false crawl" and should be reported as such. Alternatively, when a poacher or
predator has exposed eggs, or hatchlings are observed, nesting can be confirmed. When the
activity site includes both a crawl and an associated disturbance which may or may not contain
eggs, distinguishing a true nest from an unsuccessful attempt is challenging even for an
experienced worker. Probing for the eggs with a sharp stick will sometimes confirm the
presence of a nest, but this is strongly discouraged because subsequent bacterial invasion of the
broken eggs may destroy the entire nest. In the case of hawksbill nests in dense vegetation, even
finding a site suitable for probing can be difficult. Hence the logic that crawls, rather than nests,
be the basis of reporting. When a crawl has been counted, it should be disguised with a palm
frond or a gentle sweeping motion of hands or feet in order to dissuade possible poachers from
finding the site and also to prevent the crawl from being counted twice.

Identifying the crawl to species is easy in many cases, since sea turtles leave either a
symmetrical or an asymmetrical track in the sand. In the first case, the pattern is made by the
simultaneous movement of her flippers. In the second case, the pattern alternates like a zipper, a
result of the turtle moving her front flippers in an alternating rhythm. Leatherbacks leave a deep,
symmetrical crawl about two meters in width. Green turtles also leave a symmetrical crawl, but
it is only about one meter in width and the nest site is often characterized by a deep, solitary pit a
meter or more in depth and breadth. Hawksbills and loggerheads leave an asymmetrical crawl,
the hawksbill about 0.7 m in width and the loggerhead about 1.2 meter in width. The hawksbill
crawl is often very faint, however, since the animal averages a mere 54 kg (Caribbean
Nicaragua: Nietschmann, 1972 in Witzell, 1983). Loggerheads are typically twice as massive,
averaging about 116 kg in Florida (Ehrhart and Yoder, 1978 in Dodd, 1988). In addition,
hawksbills will often make their nests deep within the shelter of Coccoloba or other beach

Once the nest:false crawl ratio has been determined for a beach and the number of nests
laid (per species) is known, a knowledge of the average number of clutches laid per female
(which varies slightly amongst species and can be gleaned from well-studied populations
elsewhere in the region) can be used to estimate the number of breeding females at that site. As
a general rule, leatherbacks average 6-7 nests per summer, hawksbills 5 nests, and green turtles
4-5 nests. Thirty hawksbill tracks on a beach may represent only 20 actual nests, which in turn
represent only four adult females. To obtain a more accurate assessment of the number of
females nesting per year on a particular beach, as well as the return intervals both within and
between seasons by individuals, all-night patrol must be undertaken by trained personnel and the
tagging of nesting females initiated. Tagging is not something to be undertaken lightly. It is time-

Page 63

CEP Technical Report No. 17

consuming and can be expensive. Most importantly, not much is learned about nesting dynamics
from tagging for a year or two. A long term research commitment is requisite to gain knowledge
beyond that obtained from daily nest counts. However, valuable insight on the international
movements of local sea turtles can be obtained from even short-term tagging.

Since it is neither practical nor necessary to monitor all the sandy beaches in St. Kitts/
Nevis, it is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that Index Beaches be selected for
comprehensive study. An island-wide survey, as recommended in section 4.112, should be
conducted to identify with confidence which areas are most used by turtles. At least two beaches
with the most nesting activity on each island should be carefully protected from activity that will
compromise the suitability of the habitat to support sea turtle nesting. Data collected from these
will enable the Fisheries Division to evaluate the success of conservation and recovery measures
implemented on behalf of sea turtles. These beaches should be monitored for nest and hatch
success, by species, during the full breeding season (at least 1 April-30 November). The data
should be centrally compiled. Field workers should receive preparatory instruction prior to their
survey efforts (see section 4.55).

In section 4.12, we suggested that the Index Beaches be declared "Sea Turtle Refuges"
under the authority of the NCEPA. Since these beaches represent the most important nesting
areas for endangered sea turtles in St. Kitts/Nevis, it is vital to preserve them as focal points for
conservation, management, and monitoring. The Atlantic beach from Cayon River to Key Ghaut
(and perhaps south to Jack Tar Village), Sandy Point/Belle Tete (which supports three species of
nesting sea turtles), and Sand Bank Bay in St. Kitts are good candidates for Index Beach (and
Refuge) designation. In Nevis, Hurricane Hill Beach, privately owned, should be similarly

4.292 Hatchlings

Any successful management programme must be based upon credible estimates of
reproductive success. Thus, while nest counts are vital (see above), follow-up at the hatchling
stage is also important. Estimates of mortality, including losses due to erosion or high seas,
domestic or feral animals (dogs, pigs), natural predators (crabs, mongooses, birds) and poachers
should be obtained. Other threats should also be watched for and reported. These might include
entrapment in debris or tyre ruts, entanglement in beach vines, disorientation by artificial
lighting, and/or harassment by onlookers. Some information can be collected on an opportun-
istic basis, such as disorientation, depredation, or the spilling of eggs from a bluff created during
a storm. In addition, it is useful if some nests are marked for study. It is not recommended that
the nest site per se be marked, but rather the distance from the nest site to two proximal objects,
such as trees or other landmarks, should be recorded so that the site can be precisely located by
triangulation at hatching two months later. Photographs taken in three directions while standing
over the nest are a useful reference.

Hatchlings can be expected after 55-75 days of incubation. Hatchling emergence at the
beach surface usually occurs at dusk. Predators, disorientation, and/or entanglement at the time
of emergence should be noted. If the emergence is missed, the hatch can be confirmed by the
presence of dozens of little tracks leading from the nest site to the sea. After a day or two has

Page 64

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

passed, the nest can be excavated and the number of hatchlings roughly estimated from the
remains of broken egg shells. In addition, unhatched (whole) eggs can be counted to determine
the proportion of eggs which did not produce hatchlings. These eggs can be opened for an
analysis of embryo stage death. If a particular problem recurs, such as nest flooding, then a
conservation programme to move eggs either at oviposition or early the next morning to higher
ground should be considered. In this case, it is crucial that nest dimensions (depth and width)
reflect the original so that incubation temperature and hence hatchling sex is not distorted. An
in-depth evaluation of hatch success should be undertaken by trained personnel at selected
important nesting beaches as soon as resources permit.

4.293 Immature and adult turtles

The monitoring of juvenile and adult turtles at sea requires special preparation and can be
considerably more difficult than counting nests or evaluating hatchling mortality. In order to
monitor foraging juveniles, systematic surveys of specific foraging grounds must be undertaken.
If such survey work is undertaken in conjunction with a tagging programme, it is possible to
evaluate both the foraging periodicities of individuals and their movements (should a tagged
turtle turn up at some point distant from where it was tagged, for instance). It is not necessary,
however, to tag individual turtles. Valuable information can be gained by repeated observation
of foraging areas and reporting the number of turtles seen. Resources are not available at the
present time to initiate population surveys at sea, nor is this seen as a top priority in St. Kitts/
Nevis. It is sufficient at this time to work toward full (and enforced) protection of sea turtles and
a long-term commitment to the preservation of nesting beaches, coral reefs, and sea grass.

4.3 Encourage and Support International Cooperation

4.31 CITES

The 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora (CITES) was established to protect certain endangered species from over-exploitation by
means of a system of import/export permits. The Convention regulates international commerce
in animals and plants whether dead or alive, and any recognizable parts of derivatives thereof.
Appendix I lists endangered species (including all species of sea turtle), trade in which is tightly
controlled; Appendix II lists species that may become endangered unless trade is regulated;
Appendix III lists species that any Party wishes to regulate and requires international cooperation
to control trade; Appendix IV contains model permits. Permits are required for species listed in
appendices I and II stating that export/import will not be detrimental to the survival of the
species. CITES is one of the most widely supported wildlife treaties of all time. With the recent
accession of Barbados, the Convention has 118 Parties (USFWS, 1992). CITES does not regu-
late or control any aspect of the domestic harvest and usage of species, including sea turtles; such
regulations must promulgated by the national government.

Japan entered a "reservation" on hawksbill sea turtles when it joined CITES, and so has
continued to trade in hawksbill products. There is no question that this trade has placed
considerable strain on Caribbean populations. Between 1970 and June 1989, Japan imported
368,318 kg of tortoiseshell (the colourful plates that cover the hawksbill's shell) from the Wider

Page 65

CEP Technical Report No. 17

Caribbean region. Because each Caribbean hawksbill yields, on average, 1.34 kg of
tortoiseshell, it is clear that this trade has consumed more than one-quarter million turtles. It
appears that St. Kitts/Nevis has participated in this trade in recent years. For example, Japanese
import statistics show that 136 kg of tortoiseshell was received from St. Kitts/Nevis in 1990, the
equivalent of about 100 turtles. The trade is legal since St. Kitts/Nevis has not yet joined CITES.
However, Fisheries personnel have no knowledge of any export permits granted for this purpose
and seriously doubt that 100 hawksbills were taken from national waters for export in 1990.
Alternatively, shell could have been stockpiled for a number of years and exported all at once in
1990, or unscrupulous dealers exporting shell illegally from CITES parties may have simply
indicated that the shipment originated in St. Kitts/Nevis in order to evade CITES restrictions.

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that St. Kitts/Nevis join CITES as
soon as possible. If Japanese Customs data are correct and tortoiseshell is being exported from
St. Kitts/Nevis, ratification of the treaty will halt this destructive practice. If St. Kitts/Nevis is
simply being used by traders moving endangered species products through the region illegally,
then ratification of the treaty will protect the reputation and sovereignty of St. Kitts/Nevis from
this kind of abuse. The fact that Japan, in response to years of harsh and unyielding international
criticism, agreed to halt all imports of sea turtle products as of 31 December 1992 (Donnelly,
1991) does not lessen the importance of ratifying the CITES treaty. There is also a significant
annual export of meat (1400 lb in one shipment in October 1991, see section 3.3), especially
from Nevis, to neighboring islands, as well as "export" via tourists purchasing turtle jewelry
and other trinkets. It is encouraging that Delroy A. Joseph (Senior Customs Officer) attended a
Caribbean CITES Implementation Training Seminar held in Trinidad, 14-18 September 1992.
This comprehensive seminar, hosted by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and the CITES
Secretariat, was convened to familiarize Eastern Caribbean governments, especially non-CITES
parties, with the Convention.

4.32 Regional treaties

In 1940, the Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western
Hemisphere was negotiated under the auspices of the Pan American Union. Twelve of the
Parties to the Western Hemisphere Convention are in the wider Caribbean region. However, the
Convention contains no mechanism for reaching decisions binding upon the parties, but leaves
each Party to implement the treaty's provisions as it find "appropriate". The Bonn Convention
for the Conservation of Migratory Wild Animals, if ratified by enough nations in the wider
Caribbean, could be an effective tool in the conservation of migratory species, such as sea turtles.
It was developed to deal with all threats to migratory species, including habitat destruction and
taking for domestic consumption. Unfortunately, only France, the Netherlands and the United
Kingdom, among nations with claims in the Caribbean Sea, have signed this Convention.

The 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships
(MARPOL) is a landmark treaty that should be ratified by St. Kitts/Nevis. MARPOL has five
Annexes that give detailed technical specifications regarding the way in which a ship must be
built and equipped to prevent major pollution of the marine environment in case of accidents,
and also norms and technical requirements to minimise operational discharges. The five
Annexes are for oil, chemicals in bulk, packaged chemicals, liquid sewage, and garbage. Annex

Page 66

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

V (pollution by garbage) was amended in 1991, making the Caribbean a "Special Area". Stricter
requirements are applied to special areas than elsewhere, in order to provide greater protection
for the environment.

The most important treaty for St. Kitts/Nevis to ratify with regard to the protection of sea
turtles and the habitats upon which they depend is the United Nations Environment Programme's
(UNEP) Regional Seas Convention in the Caribbean, known as the Convention for the Protection
and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (or, "Cartagena
Convention"). The Convention is coupled with an Action Plan, known as the Action Plan for the
Caribbean Environment Programme (APCEP). The First Intergovernmental Meeting on APCEP
was convened by UNEP in cooperation with the Economic Commission for Latin America
(ECLA) in Montego Bay, Jamaica, 6-8 April 1981. The representatives of Governments from 22
States in the region (St. Kitts/Nevis was not represented) adopted APCEP at this meeting and
established the Caribbean Trust Fund to support common costs and activities associated with the
implementation of the Action Plan.

In March, 1983, a Conference of Plenipotentiaries met in Cartagena, Colombia to
negotiate the "Cartagena Convention". Representatives from 16 States participated (again, St.
Kitts/ Nevis was not represented). The Conference adopted both the Convention and a Protocol
concerning cooperation in combating oil spills in the region. The Convention describes the
responsibilities of Contracting Parties to "prevent, reduce and control" pollution from a variety of
sources (i.e. pollution from ships, from at-sea dumping of waste, from land-based sources, from
seabed activities, and from airborne sources). Article 10 is of special interest in that it addresses
the responsibilities of Contracting Parties to "individually or jointly, take all appropriate
measures to protect and preserve rare or fragile ecosystems, as well as the habitat of depleted,
threatened or endangered species, in the Convention area." The Cartagena Convention entered
into force on 11 October 1986.

In January 1990, a Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW)
to the Cartagena Convention was adopted by a Conference of Plenipotentiaries, providing a
mechanism whereby species of wild fauna and flora could be protected on a regional scale. The
landmark Protocol grants explicit protection to species listed in three categories, or annexes.
Annex I includes species of flora exempt from all forms of destruction or disturbance. Annex II
ensures total protection and recovery to listed species of fauna, with minor exceptions.
Specifically, Annex II listing prohibits (a) the taking, possession or killing (including, to the
extent possible, the incidental taking, possession or killing) or commercial trade in such species,
their eggs, parts or products, and (b) to the extent possible, the disturbance of such species,
particularly during periods of breeding, incubation, estivation or migration, as well as other
periods of biological stress. Annex III denotes species in need of "protection and recovery", but
subject to a regulated harvest.

On 11 June 1991, Plenipotentiaries again met in Kingston, Jamaica, to formally adopt the
Annexes. The Conference voted unanimously to include all six species of sea turtle inhabiting
the Wider Caribbean (i.e., Caretta caretta, Chelonia mydas, Eretmochelys imbricata, Dermo-
chelys coriacea, Lepidochelys kempii, and L. olivacea) in Annex II (UNEP, 1991; Eckert, 1991).
The unanimous vote on this issue is a clear statement on the part of Caribbean governments that

Page 67

CEP Technical Report No. 17

the protection of regionally depleted species, including sea turtles, is a priority. Although the
Government of St. Kitts/Nevis has periodically contributed to the Caribbean Environment
Programme Trust Fund, as of 31 July 1992 it had not yet ratified the Cartagena Convention
(UNEP, 1992). It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the Cartagena Con-
vention and its Protocols be ratified and implemented by St. Kitts/Nevis as soon as possible.

4.33 Subregional sea turtle management

It is well documented that sea turtles are among the most migratory of Caribbean fauna.
There have been hundreds of cases of turtles tagged in one area and captured in another. Leath-
erbacks tagged in locales as distant as Chesapeake Bay (USA) and Tortuguero (Costa Rica) have
been killed after swimming into Cuban waters (Carr and Meylan, 1984; Barnard et al., 1989).
One leatherback tagged while nesting on St. Croix (USVI) later stranded in New Jersey, US
(Boulon et al., 1988); another was captured in Campeche, Mexico (Boulon, 1989). A leather-
back tagged while nesting in French Guiana in May 1970 was caught one year later in Ghana,
west Africa, some 6000 km away (Pritchard, 1973). Juvenile hawksbills tagged in the USVI
have been recovered in Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, St. Martin, Ginger Island (BVI) (Boulon, 1989)
and the Dominican Republic (Ralf Boulon, USVI Div. Fish and Wildlife, pers. comm., 1991). A
young hawksbill tagged in Brazil was killed 3700 km away by a fisherman in Dakar, Senegal, six
months later (Marcovaldi and Filippini, 1991). An adult hawksbill tagged on Long Island
(Antigua) whilst nesting was later captured by a fisherman in Dominica (Fuller et al., 1992).

Adult green turtles tagged while nesting in Costa Rica have been recovered from the
Greater Antilles (Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico), the USA, Mexico, throughout Central America,
and from Colombia and Venezuela (Carr et al., 1978; Meylan, 1982). Juvenile green turtles tag-
ged in the USVI have been recaptured in the Grenadines, the Dominican Republic, and the
Bahamas (Boulon, 1989). Green turtles nesting in Suriname are routinely recaptured in Brazil
(Pritchard, 1976). Meylan (1983) reported that "several" green turtles captured by nets off the
southeast and southwest coasts of Nevis, as well as in the vicinity of Newcastle, have borne tags
originally put on at the nesting beach on Isla Aves, some 200 km to the southwest. Indirect
evidence of the migratory nature of sea turtles is also available in St. Kitts/Nevis -- all turtle
fishermen are familiar with the seasonal arrival of gravid (=egg-bearing) turtles prior to the
annual nesting season. Tagging efforts in St. Kitts/Nevis would be useful in further clarifying
the international movements of Caribbean sea turtles. Mr. Augustine Merchant (Director, Depart-
ment of Agriculture, Nevis) has approached WIDECAST asking that interested Nevis fishermen
be taught how to tag and then release turtles caught incidental to other fishing activities.

It is intuitive that any action taken to protect sea turtles must be shared among nations
that hold these species in common. This is why the WIDECAST project is active in all countries
of the Wider Caribbean (the West Indies and Latin America), developing recovery plans and
setting priorities for national and international action on behalf of remaining sea turtle stocks
(section 4.53). In the case of St. Kitts/Nevis, it is virtually certain that foraging populations are
shared with other nations and territories in the northeastern Caribbean. Juvenile turtles travel
widely during the decades prior to sexual maturity. In addition, nesting females may travel
hundreds or, in the case of leatherback turtles, thousands of kilometers in order to lay their eggs
on the beaches of St. Kitts/Nevis. Fisheries staff are encouraged to alert fishermen to the impor-

Page 68

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

tance of turtle tags, and to request that tags be submitted to the Fisheries Division so that the
scientist who tagged the turtle can be notified [N.B. a tag should never be removed from a live
turtle; if the turtle is alive, record the number and the address engraved on the tag and release the
turtle]. Quentin Henderson (VSO), bee-keeper, has kindly offered to give complimentary jars of
honey to Nevis fishermen who turn tags in to the Fisheries Division.

There are several ways in which St. Kitts/Nevis can participate in the regional and
subregional conservation of sea turtles. The ratification of international wildlife treaties and
agreements that protect marine and coastal environments are particularly useful. Some of the
more important treaties have already been discussed in this document (e.g., CITES, Cartagena
Convention). In addition, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) has considered
subregional conservation measures that deserve the support of St. Kitts/Nevis, including an
OECS-wide moratorium on the harvest of sea turtles. Wilkins and Barrett (1987) concluded that
"turtle stocks in this part of the region [are] on the decline. . The OECS countries should be
encouraged to implement the harmonized regulations giving effect to the moratorium on sea
turtle fishing. Steps should be taken to encourage this to [all] wider Caribbean countries." St.
Kitts/ Nevis is encouraged to participate fully in all relevant international programmes. Only in
this way will national conservation efforts be successful in the long-term.

4.4 Develop Public Education

4.41 Residents

"In general, the populace of St. Kitts/Nevis, as elsewhere in the region, do not appear to
be fully sensitised about the values or benefits of conservation and the role that careful manage-
ment of the environment plays in national development. Neither is the corollary of this
appreciated. Negative impacts upon national development, biodiversity, human health and the
quality of life which result from mismanagement of the environment are not part of the
consciousness of the average citizen." (James, 1992). Making the environment part of the
consciousness of the average citizen is crucial to the sustained survival of both the human
residents and the wildlife, especially the endangered wildlife, of the Caribbean basin.
Fortunately, grass-roots advocacy groups throughout the region are becoming more involved
with teaching their fellow citizens the value of wildlife, wildlands, a clean environment, and
monitoring compliance with wildlife regulations. This is certainly true in St. Kitts/Nevis, where
there is growing cooperation between conservation groups (e.g., NHCS, SCHS) and community
service groups, educators, church groups, Fisheries and other government officials, marine
resource user groups (fishermen, yachters, SCUBA divers), and media representatives.

Sea turtles are particularly good candidates for public education campaigns. They are
easily cast as symbols of the health of the coastal zone, both marine (coral reefs and sea grass)
and terrestrial (sandy beaches). Many residents have seen turtles in one setting or another, and
the connection between protecting sea turtles and protecting large segments of the economic base
of St. Kitts/Nevis (e.g., fisheries, tourism) can be clearly articulated. There have been several
examples in recent years of public awareness efforts on behalf of sea turtles, including
informative articles in local newspapers and NGO newsletters. WIDECAST has provided slides
to NHCS and SCHS for educational use and is working with both groups to design a colourful

Page 69

CEP Technical Report No. 17

sea turtle brochure. Since 1991, Karen Eckert (Executive Director, WIDECAST) has given more
than two dozen slide shows to audiences in St. Kitts and Nevis, typically sponsored by the NHCS
or SCHS. Adults and school children have been targeted, and both groups have responded with
long sessions of animated questions. Radio and television interviews have also aired.

The message has found its way into local business and community service programmes.
For example, the Turtle Beach Bar and Grill on the Southeast Peninsula requested assistance
from WIDECAST in designing an informative sea turtle exhibit (poster, photos, log book for
sightings) now displayed at the restaurant and popular with guests. The Librarian of the Nevis
Public Library has asked WIDECAST to provide a variety of educational materials and games in
order that the topic of the 1992 annual Summer Library Programme can be "Endangered Sea
Turtles of St. Kitts and Nevis". The three-week summer programme will serve several hundred
community children of all age groups.

Churches have also become involved in the essential work of community environmental
awareness. For example, in 1990 during Environmental Awareness Week and again on World
Environment Day in June 1992, the Responsive Prayers read at Gingerland Methodist Church
included the following lines:

Leader: You gave us sandy beaches and we were greedy and raped them.
Lord forgive us....
All: And show us a new way.

Leader: You gave us fish and turtles for food and we exploited them and
cared not whether they replenish. Lord forgive us....
All: And show us a new way.

As early as December of 1981, the NHCS published a notice in the local press in an
attempt to discourage the harvesting of juvenile and egg-bearing lobsters and turtles. "This
announcement appeared weekly for a period of about three months and was the first attempt by
any local organization to nationally address the problem of conservation of marine resources"
(Skerritt, 1982). As the Lead Organization for WIDECAST in Nevis, the NHCS remains very
active on behalf of turtles. EcoNews and The Environmentalist, both published by the NHCS,
feature regular articles on the endangered status of sea turtles and how the community can be-
come more involved in their conservation. The NHCS has plans to construct a permanent airport
display which will include sea turtle information, as well as a "traveling display" to rotate among
interested local businesses (such as banks and medical offices) that will focus on natural resource
conservation. The Society will continue its history of writing issue-letters to merchants, restaur-
ants and hotels, sponsoring radio announcements on contemporary marine issues, and hosting
public seminars. Through WIDECAST, NHCS has requested several hundred copies of the Cen-
ter for Marine Conservation's "Sea Turtle Colouring Book" for distribution to primary schools.

In January 1989, the NHCS sent a letter to Nevis restaurant owners highlighting several
matters of concern, including the endangered status of sea turtles. The letter read, in part: "The
offering of turtle on the menus of local hotels is a serious concern. Sea turtle species are
endangered throughout the world and Nevis is no exception. Concerned groups throughout the

Page 70

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

region are suggesting a ten-year moratorium on sea turtles ... Even without the harvesting of sea
turtles and sea turtle eggs, the species will have a hard time surviving. Encroaching civilization
-- populated beaches, lighted beaches, the loss of sea grass and mangrove swamps as a result of
clearing, garbage dumping, and siltation from land clearing -- makes it hard for sea turtles to
survive ... Fishermen only harvest what they can sell, and when everyone refuses to buy sea
turtles, the fishermen will quit taking them. Repeated refusals from prospective buyers will get
the message across." As a direct consequence of this campaign, several local restaurants have
agreed to remove sea turtle meals from their menus.

Similarly, the SCHS Marine Division focuses on issues directly affecting sea turtles and
other marine resources. Heritage regularly features informative articles on the status and
conservation of the coastal zone, including sea grasses, coral reefs and sandy beaches so
important to the survival of sea turtles. The Marine Division has been an active participant in the
development of this Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan, soliciting input from a broad cross-section
of the community, including persons representing fishermen, SCUBA divers, restaurant owners
and hoteliers, coastal developers, Fisheries personnel and educators, and hosting "Town
Meetings" to discuss the document. The SCHS has offered to distribute sea turtle awareness
materials, plans to develop a sea turtle display at the SCHS office, initiated a survey of nesting
activity on several known nesting beaches during the summer of 1992, and has an active
campaign to discourage people from driving on nesting beaches (see section 4.134). An
informative video en-titled "Underwater St. Kitts and Nevis" has been produced as part of the
SCHS Marine Environment Education Programme. A variety of other educational materials are
in the planning stages and some are being developed in cooperation with WIDECAST.

There is widespread support for a "Sea Turtle Awareness Week" in St. Kitts/Nevis. A
coordinated, national effort would ensure that all residents were exposed to the message of sea
turtle (and coastal) conservation. In 1991, the NHCS and WIDECAST submitted a proposal to
the local office of Shell Antilles and Guianas, Ltd., for a small grant to facilitate the effort. The
objectives were (1) to promote an awareness within the general public of the plight of sea turtles,
nationally and regionally, (2) to provide the community with the latest scientific information on
the biology of sea turtles and how to conserve them, (3) to encourage media involvement in the
issues, (4) to sponsor hands-on workshops on sea turtle population monitoring and conservation,
(5) to enhance local ability to make informed decisions regarding such issues as coastal
development, sea turtle conservation, and law enforcement, and (6) to strengthen the
effectiveness of local initiatives, such as the Ecosystem of Nevis Project and various projects of
the SCHS Marine Division. Shell subsequently turned down the proposal, but an Awareness
Week (including seminars, media events, workshops, and the distribution of educational
materials) is a priority for the NGO community and support will be sought elsewhere.

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the WIDECAST project, in
continuing cooperation with local conservation groups and government agencies, develop a
variety of educational materials suitable for wide public distribution. These should include
colourful, scientifically accurate, conservation-oriented materials that can be integrated into
primary and secondary school curricula, adult education classes, fisheries extension programmes,
coastal development seminars, general environmental education campaigns, print and electronic
media programmes, and public displays (e.g., airports).

Page 71

CEP Technical Report No. 17

4.42 Fishermen

It is intuitively obvious that enforcement is impractical, if not impossible, in the absence
of public knowledge of and support for the law(s) being enforced. This is particularly true for
user groups such as fishermen. Fishermen, especially older individuals who have seen stocks
decline noticeably during their lifetimes, are keenly aware of the depleted status of sea turtles.
For this reason, there was fairly broad support from within the fishing community for legislation
proposed in 1986 (and again in 1992) to ban the catch of sea turtles (see section 4.23). Prior to
the 1992 Fisheries Act (which repealed the closed season), Fisheries personnel announced the
closed turtle season on the radio and through Department of Agriculture publications; hotels
were also reminded. Despite widespread knowledge of the law, varying levels of harvest
occurred year-around since there has never been any credible likelihood of prosecution. A
chance encounter with a sea turtle was (and is) difficult to pass by when the catch had otherwise
been slight. Turtle meat sells for EC$ 2-5/lb.

It is imperative to reach out to those who hunt and most frequently have contact with sea
turtles. Targeting other groups, such as school children, planning boards and tourists, without
the cooperation of direct users of the marine environment would be counter-productive.
Fishermen should be involved in decisions regarding open and closed seasons, size limits, etc.
Their participation in seminars and slide shows should be (and has been) sought so that they are
aware of the status of sea turtles, their complicated life history in the Caribbean, and what is
required to promote their recovery. Educational efforts should be directed both to individual
fishermen and to fishing Co-operatives, and should be facilitated by Fisheries personnel and
Co-operative officers. Workshops and/or special sessions in regular meetings of fisherman's
Co-operatives would be helpful. Ongoing exchanges of information should be promoted by
making displays, leaflets, and other items available at Co-operative buildings and/or landing
sites. It is significant that fishermen, Co-operative officers, and Fisheries personnel were active
participants in the development of this Recovery Action Plan.

The Department of Agriculture sponsors, or has sponsored in the past, several venues that
allow Fisheries personnel to share information with fishermen and the general pubic. Radio DJs
are given "Fisheries Facts" to work into their air time each day. "Agriscope", developed by the
Communications Unit of the Department of Agriculture, airs twice weekly on the radio and
focuses on topics of current fisheries interest, such as turtles, oil spills, gear, etc. It has been
suggested by some members of the fishing community that a 15 minute radio programme each
day, which discusses sea turtles and urges residents not to kill them or take their eggs, would be
successful in St. Kitts/Nevis. This type of natural resource programming would logically include
a broad spectrum of general interest topics, such as waste disposal and pollution, the biology of
native birds and mammals, the importance of fragile habitats (such as the rain forest and coastal
wetlands), and issues of interest to the fishing community.

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that media programmes focusing on
the marine environment, including endangered species such as sea turtles, be continued and
expanded. It is also recommended that the participation and support of fishing Co-operatives be
actively solicited during the development and implementation of conservation legislation. User
groups should be given a chance to comment and provided with clear explanations about why

Page 72

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

restrictions, such as on the harvest of sea turtles, are mandatory for the future of the resource.
Finally, international workshops attended by representatives of the fishing community, rather
than just government personnel, would allow fishermen to see that each local industry is
important to larger fisheries conservation concerns in the region. At a sea turtle workshop, for
instance, fishermen could be introduced to the latest information regarding survivorship, growth
to maturity, fecundity, and the ability of sea turtle populations to recover from sustained
exploitation. Alternative livelihoods should also be explored. Appropriate workshops might be
sponsored by WECAF, or the Fisheries Unit of the OECS.

It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that Co-operative members and
Fisheries extension officials be fully versed in the recommendations of this Recovery Action
Plan. To best realize this goal, multiple copies of the Plan should be provided to Co-operatives
(for sharing with members) and to the Fisheries Division. Copies should also be made available
to the Director of the Fisheries Complex in Nevis and to similar marketing facilities, if relevant,
in St. Kitts. Fishermen should be encouraged to participate in recovery actions, such as beach
patrols and perhaps tagging. Mr. Augustine Merchant (Director, Department of Agriculture,
Nevis) has already approached WIDECAST asking that interested Nevis fishermen be taught
how to tag and then release the turtles they catch incidental to other fishing activities. If
successful, a similar programme should be initiated in St. Kitts. Finally, a determined effort
needs to be put forth to communicate the importance of sea turtle conservation to the
spear-fishermen who, for the most part, do not belong to or participate in the fishing
Co-operatives. The spearing of turtles is a serious and increasing threat to sea turtle survival.

4.43 Tourists

Tourism is increasing in St. Kitts/Nevis. The 1989 figure of 72,100 stay-over arrivals in
the country is double the 1981 figure of 35,500 (CCA, 1991). If tourists are not to become an
increasing part of the problem in terms of the environmental degradation of St. Kitts and Nevis,
then visitor education will have to be a priority. The NHCS has engaged in a successful
campaign to encourage restaurant owners in Nevis not to offer turtle meat on their menus
(section 4.41). In concert with such efforts, it is important that persons to refuse to patronize
restaurants and stores that offer turtle products. Since a few Basseterre stores still sell
tortoiseshell items, tourists should also be made aware that if they are returning to any of nearly
120 CITES countries (section 4.31), sea turtle products will be confiscated upon their return
home. If visitors refuse to buy sea turtle products, demand for them will decline and fishermen
may not be inclined to harvest as many turtles. This information should be communicated
through Traveler magazine and other literature widely read by visitors. WIDECAST and the
NHCS are collaborating to design and distribute plaques or certificates to present to restaurants
and merchants that do not serve or sell sea turtle products.

Other problems which affect sea turtles and are related to an increasing number of
visitors include coral reef degradation, indiscriminate anchoring, waste disposal, and beach-front
construction that brings lights and activity to nesting beaches. A colourful, permanent display at
each airport that describes beach and marine etiquette (laws governing litter, anchoring, etc.) and
the endangered status of some local wildlife (including sea turtles) should be a priority for local
conservation groups. In addition, a leaflet should be provided to each tourist by Customs officials

Page 73

CEP Technical Report No. 17

requesting that visitors not buy turtle products, collect starfish, disturb coral reefs (trampling,
anchoring, touching, collection), use spear-guns, drive vehicles on the beach, litter, etc. It would
be helpful to reach cruise ship passengers and yachters, as well. The number of cruise and yacht
passengers doubled between 1982 and 1983 and had tripled by 1989 (CCA, 1991). NHCS and
SCHS should design appropriate brochures and other educational materials for tourists. Funding
should be sought from local industries and private foundations.

Following the April 1992 capture and release of a large leatherback turtle from Oualie
Beach, Nevis, John Yearwood, President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Hotel Association, spoke
eloquently to the point that sea turtles have value not only to residents, but to visitors as well. He
said, "Many visitors are attracted to our shores, in the knowledge that they have a good chance of
seeing leatherbacks and other rare sea turtle species whilst snorkeling or SCUBA-diving in our
crystal clear waters. A leatherback turtle of this great size and age is potentially exceptionally
more valuable to our tourism industry, alive and free rather than dying painfully on a beach,
totally out of its natural element. Our Government should give serious and urgent consideration
to reviewing existing legislation to protect all endangered species in our Federation -- and to
working with local fishermen and SCUBA-diving operators to identify coral reefs to be set aside
as Protected Marine Parks, without endangering the livelihood of our hard-working local
fishermen." (The Democrat, 25 April 1992).

4.44 Non-consumptive uses of sea turtles to generate revenue

"Good ecology is good economics". Several authors have extolled the beauty, diversity,
and promise of the Southeast Peninsula of St. Kitts with regard to ecotourism, often with
particular reference to the presence of sea turtles. Ecotourism, or the idea that tourists will visit
St. Kitts/Nevis in order to partake of unspoiled natural and cultural attractions, has the potential
to generate considerable income. Indeed, this has been the basis for an ongoing WWF-funded
eco-tourism training programme by the NHCS. In St. Kitts, several reports submitted to the
Southeast Peninsula Land Development and Conservation Board prior to the construction of the
peninsular road emphasised the long-term value to the tourist industry of maintaining the
ecological integrity of the peninsula's coastal zone. According to Williams (1992), "The future
of our tourism development will depend on the extent to which the public and private sectors,
and our people understand the relationship between tourism and the environment and take the
necessary steps to ensure protection and enhancement of the natural and built environment. It is
our environment, or rather the experience and enjoyment of it, that we promote and sell."

Sea turtles could play a supporting role in the generation of tourist income. Hotels with
the foresight to plan for adequate setbacks, lighting restrictions, and pollution control; keep
recreational equipment such as lounge chairs and sailboats from cluttering the beach at night; and
resist armouring and other erosion control measures will find that sea turtles are likely to
continue nesting on their beaches. Those choosing to capitalize on this fact may want to offer
Sea Turtle Watches guided by trained naturalists, making it possible for guests to witness
egg-laying and hatching on the hotel beach. This kind of programme can be designed by
WIDECAST personnel, modeled after a successful programme in Antigua. A fee could be
charged and ear-marked for conservation activities designed to maintain the sea turtle's nesting
grounds. In addition to terrestrial attractions, local SCUBA dive professionals know that dive-

Page 74

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

tourists are eager to see sea turtles and may be prone to return to those Caribbean sites where the
elusive reptiles can be seen.

To quote Williams (1992) again, "Our survival and the quality of our lives today and in
the future largely depends on the natural environment. With ecotourism, as with any activity
intended to produce economic benefits, the inputs must be protected from becoming degraded."
It is a recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the government and people of St. Kitts/
Nevis work diligently for a balance between developing the material wealth of the nation and
conserving the integrity of the supporting land and sea, the "principal" from which all income is
(and forever will be) derived. An intact environment, including flourishing populations of sea
turtles, is a sound ecological and economic investment. Short-term income can be derived from
the sale and consumption of turtles and their eggs, but once the principal has been spent it cannot
be replaced.

4.5 Increase Information Exchange

4.51 Marine Turtle Newsletter

The Marine Turtle Newsletter (MTN) is received by Fisheries Offices (Department of
Agriculture) in St. Kitts and Nevis. In addition, the newsletter is received and archived at the
Museum of Nevis History (formerly the Alexander Hamilton House Museum), the Nevis Public
Library, the St. Christopher Heritage Society, and the St. Kitts Public Library. The MTN is
distributed to readers in more than 100 countries and is an excellent way to stay informed about
sea turtle biology and conservation around the world. The newsletter is available free of charge,
is published quarterly in English and Spanish, and can be requested from: Editors, Marine Tur-tle
Newsletter, Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, 1700 South Shores Road, San Diego, Cali-
fornia 92109 USA. Development authorities (e.g., Frigate Bay Development Board, Southeast
Peninsula Land Development and Conservation Board) and other relevant groups, such as the
Hotel Association and Fisheries Extension Office, should be encouraged to read the Newsletter.

4.52 Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium (WATS)

St. Kitts/Nevis participated in both Western Atlantic Turtle Symposia (WATS I, Costa
Rica, 1983; WATS II, Puerto Rico, 1987) and plans to continue to participate in this important
regional data base. The country was represented by Ralph Wilkins (Fisheries Division) and
Anne Meylan (University of Florida) at WATS I, and by Ralph Wilkins and Audra Barrett
(Fisheries Division) at WATS II. The WATS Manual of Sea Turtle Research and Conservation
Techniques (Pritchard et al., 1983) is available for perusal at the Fisheries Office.


The Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Recovery Team and Conservation Network
(WIDECAST) consists of a regional team of sea turtle experts which works closely with local
Country Coordinators, who in turn enlist the support and participation of citizens in and out of
government who have an interest in sea turtle conservation. The primary project outputs are Sea
Turtle Recovery Action Plans (STRAPs) for each of 39 government regions, including St. Kitts

Page 75

CEP Technical Report No. 17

and Nevis, in the Wider Caribbean. Each STRAP is tailored specifically to local circumstances
and provides the following information:

1. The local status and distribution of nesting and feeding sea turtles.
2. The major causes of mortality to sea turtles.
3. The effectiveness of existing national and international laws protecting
sea turtles.
4. The present and historical role of sea turtles in local culture and economy.
5. Local, national, and multi-lateral implementing measures for scientifically
sound sea turtle conservation.

The short-term objectives of WIDECAST are to provide Wider Caribbean governments
with updated information on the status of sea turtles in the region, to provide specific
recommendations for the management and recovery of endangered, threatened, and vulnerable
sea turtle stocks, and to assist Wider Caribbean governments in the discharge of their obligations
under the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) in the Wider
Caribbean Region (see section 4.32). The longer-term objectives are to promote a regional
capability to implement scientifically sound sea turtle conservation programmes by developing
and supporting a technical understanding of sea turtle biology and management among local
individuals and organizations. These objectives are accomplished by:

1. Implementing WIDECAST through resident Country Coordinators.
2. Utilising local network participants to collect information and draft, under
the supervision of regional sea turtle experts, locally appropriate sea
turtle management recommendations.
3. Providing or assisting in the development of educational materials (slides,
brochures, posters, pamphlets).
4. Sponsoring or supporting local or subregional workshops on sea turtle bi-
ology and management.
5. Assisting governments and non-government groups with the implementa-
tion of effective management and conservation programmes for turtles.

Beyond supporting the local and national efforts of governments and non-governmental
organizations, WIDECAST works to integrate these efforts into a collective regional response to
a common problem, the disappearance of sea turtles. WIDECAST is partially supported by the
UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme, as well as by a wide variety of government and
non-government agencies and groups. Non-government organization members, government
personnel, divers, fishermen, teachers, restaurant owners, hoteliers, and a variety of concerned
citizens are already actively involved in the WIDECAST project in St. Kitts/Nevis. The NHCS
and the SCHS Marine Division are the Lead Organizations for the international WIDECAST
project in St. Kitts and Nevis.

4.54 IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group

The Marine Turtle Specialist Group (Dr. Karen Bjomdal, Chair) is responsible for track-
ing the status of sea turtle populations around the world for the World Resources Union (IUCN)

Page 76

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

Species Survival Commission (SSC). The Group is presently drafting an outline for a global
Marine Turtle Action Plan. The Group is a valuable source of information about sea turtles and
technical advice on conservation projects. For further information, contact Dr. Karen Bjordal,
Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.

4.55 Workshops on research and management

Prior to the implementation of field surveys or other conservation projects, participants
must be trained in basic sea turtle biology, including species identification (whether the evidence
available is a turtle, egg, or beach crawl). Additional detail, provided as needed, should include
proper methods to conduct beach patrols, transplant eggs, tag turtles, survey by air, etc. Informal
local workshops can be arranged by WIDECAST upon request. The Lead Organizations for
WIDECAST in St. Kitts and Nevis are the NHCS and the SCHS Marine Society; requests for
assistance from the international WIDECAST technical team should be directed to these local
groups. A short training course on sea turtle biology is available in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, from
the Caribbean Conservation Corporation (P. O. Box 2866, Gainesville, Florida 32602).

For the most part, the training necessary to carry out many of the actions recommended in
this Recovery Action Plan will need to be provided locally. With technical support from
WIDECAST, it is recommended that NHCS, SCHS, and/or the Fisheries Division provide the
necessary background to biologists, SCUBA divers, coastal developers, and residents who are
interested in monitoring the status of sea turtles. A Manual of Sea Turtle Research and
Conservation Techniques, produced by the Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium (Pritchard et al.,
1983), provides instruction and background for many sea turtle research and management
techniques. Programme managers are encouraged to follow this manual to the fullest extent
when research and conservation projects are designed and implemented.

4.56 Exchange of information among local groups

If the non-government conservation community is to act as a fully functional ally of the
fragile environment of St. Kitts/Nevis, then the full and constant exchange of ideas, resources,
and published material is essential. The exchange of information is growing internally within
each island, thanks to the tireless efforts of dedicated members of the NHCS and the SCHS, but a
full exchange of information between the two islands is lacking. In Nevis, EcoNews and The
Environmentalist are sent to all NHCS members, as well as to government Ministers, Police
officers, teachers, and religious leaders. Extra copies are stacked at lawyers' offices, banks, and
medical facilities to invite a wider audience. In St. Kitts, issues of the SCHS newsletter Heritage
are available for sale to members and the general public. It would be very useful if grant monies
could be secured for the free distribution of Heritage in order to encourage a wider readership
among teachers, non-members, and others. A regular exchange of multiple copies of all relevant
newsletters should occur between the two islands. Sea turtle conservation is one area of
conservation that will depend on thoroughly integrated NGO efforts across the nation. It is also
important that other relevant groups, such as teachers, media representatives, library staff, coastal
residents, fishermen, boaters and SCUBA divers, be included in the routine exchange of

Page 77

CEP Technical Report No. 17

In Nevis, the Nevis Environmental Education Committee has successfully brought
together a broad cross-section of the community to focus on environmental matters. These
include representatives of Youth and Community Affairs, Adult Education, the Womens' Desk,
Department of Education, Public Library, Nevis Historical and Conservation Society,
Government Information Service, Representatives of the business sector, Public Health
Department, Hotel Association, Fisheries Office, and Tourism officials. The Committee plans to
provide bundles of leaflets ("fact sheets") on various topics, including sea turtles, at NEEC
meetings so that participants can later distribute them within their own organizations.

4.6 Implement National Sea Turtle Conservation Programme

4.61 Rationale

It is clear from the information provided in this Recovery Action Plan that three species
of sea turtle, all classified as "endangered" by the World Conservation Union (Groombridge,
1982; Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989), utilize the waters and sandy beaches of St. Kitts and
Nevis for feeding and for nesting. These species are the hawksbill, leatherback (river turtle), and
green turtle (Figure 3). A fourth turtle, the loggerhead, is classified as "vulnerable" by the World
Conservation Union and is occasionally reported in offshore waters. In order to prevent the local
extinction of these species, government and non-government agencies and groups need to
implement measures to conserve and manage remaining stocks. Planning for the conservation
and management of sea turtles involves two steps: (1) the identification of habitat upon which
sea turtles depend and (2) the elaboration of criteria and the implementation of regulations to
ensure that serious habitat degradation is prevented and that all stages of the life cycle are
protected to the greatest degree possible.

The objective of this Recovery Action Plan has been to provide specific sea turtle
management recommendations which can be translated into regulatory action. If these
recommendations are fully incorporated into the legislative and institutional framework of St.
Kitts and Nevis, native sea turtles are likely to survive.

The virtually unregulated harvest of sea turtles and eggs over many generations,
combined with historical and contemporary stresses on habitat, has resulted in a dramatic decline
in the number of sea turtles feeding in local waters and nesting on the beaches. For example, six
or more leatherbacks (sometimes referred to as "river turtles") could be observed per night on
Conaree Beach 30 years ago, whereas today a hunter may wait several nights without seeing a
single turtle. Older fishermen remember the green turtle to be common, especially along the
Caribbean and peninsula coasts of St. Kitts; today nesting is rare. Residents recall when the
beaches of the southeast peninsula were "covered with sea turtle crawls", both hawksbill and
green, during the nesting season; a survey of six peninsula beaches during June-August 1992
revealed not a single green or hawksbill turtle nest. The same scenario has played out in Nevis.
Similarly, the historical record provides evidence of sea turtles in local waters in abundances
which are nearly unimaginable today. Even over the lifetime of older fishermen and divers
interviewed for this Recovery Action Plan, the conclusion is inescapable that populations of
juveniles and adults at sea have noticeably diminished. The trend is not so easily seen from year
to year, but is unambiguous over the last four decades.

Page 78

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

In 1948, a Turtle Ordinance (Cap 99) came into force that protected sea turtles and their
eggs between 1 June and 30 September. The Ordinance also protected young turtles less than 20
lb (9 kg) at all times. Because the closed season did not encompass the full breeding season
(peak: April-November) and enforcement was inadequate, the Ordinance was insufficient to
provide for the long-term conservation of these species. This fact is clearly reflected in the
current depleted state of local populations [N.B. it is now well known that the persistent harvest
of large juveniles and breeding-age adults virtually assures population collapse; see section
4.23]. The Turtle Ordinance was repealed by the Fisheries Act of 1992, but since there is no
specific provision for sea turtle conservation (size limits, seasons) in the new Fisheries Act, the
nation now stands without any sea turtle legislation whatsoever. This situation will continue
until new Fisheries Regulations are adopted. The draft Fisheries Regulations of 1992 include a
moratorium on the harvest of sea turtles and their eggs at all times, and this stance is fully
supported by this Recovery Action Plan. If a period of harvest is inevitable prior to the
Regulations coming into force, then interim regulations declaring a maximum size limit and a
closed season from 1 April to 30 November are recommended (see section 4.23).

In addition to historical and present-day deficiencies in national legislation, there are
other threats to the survival of sea turtles that need to be considered and addressed. At the
present time, sea turtles in St. Kitts and Nevis are jeopardized by three main factors: (1) the
harvest of turtles and eggs, (2) the destruction of nesting and foraging habitats as a result of a
rising human population, pollution, and increasing development and use, and (3) an
under-staffed and insufficiently equipped Fisheries Division. A shortage of funding and material
supplies (including a boat) hinders the Fisheries Division from carrying out a number of
important activities, including implementing comprehensive surveys of turtle populations,
purchasing measuring tools, tags, tagging equipment, and other basic research supplies,
conducting regular extension and community outreach programmes, and monitoring compliance
with fisheries and conservation legislation. Conservation efforts are also hindered, to varying
degrees, by the following:

1. The coastlines of the St. Kitts and Nevis include about 30 km of sandy beaches. It is
impossible with present resources to carry out regular and comprehensive patrols of all beaches
throughout the year, or even during the eight months (April-November) when sea turtles would
be most likely to nest. Lacking sufficient staff and transportation, neither the Fisheries Division
nor the non-government conservation community has been able to systematically collect even the
most basic information (e.g., how many nests are laid each year).

2. The marine areas of St. Kitts and Nevis (especially St. Kitts, with the exception of the
Southeast Peninsula) have not been thoroughly surveyed or mapped with regard to the
distribution or health of sea grass and coral reefs. These ecosystems provide the majority of food
items for sea turtles resident or itinerant in local waters. Similarly, patterns of usage have not
been studied. The areas most frequented by turtles are known only in a very general way. Thus,
it has not been possible to determine which areas would serve most effectively as special
conservation sites, or reserves, for sea turtles.

3. Due to the infrequency of beach and at-sea surveys and the complete absence of field
conservation efforts aimed at apprehending sea turtle poachers, poachers have been able to kill
turtles under-sized and/or out of season (when there was a season) and dig nests without being

Page 79

CEP Technical Report No. 17

caught. This is especially true with regard to digging nests. There was a consensus among
persons interviewed for this Recovery Action Plan that the vast majority of eggs are collected
each year and that this has continued for generations.

4. There has been no attempt at record-keeping regarding the number of turtles harvested
each year. Attempts to obtain this information by interviewing fishermen and other residents
have generally resulted in conflicting reports. For example, one group of five local
spear-fishermen reported that each of them killed an average of one turtle per month, for an
annual tally of about 60 turtles; other fishermen contend that that level of take is impossible.
One regular diver reported seeing turtles on "80%" of his dives; others contend that encounters
with turtles are rare at best. Some say that staying up all night waiting to take an egg-bearing
female is a thing of the past; others say that in their village it is still common. While the
qualitative trends are obvious, quantitative data capable of describing recent population declines
are not available.

The constraints described above have made it difficult to reach conclusions on the
distribution and size of nesting assemblages, nesting frequency and success, distribution and size
of foraging populations, distribution and health of important feeding grounds, the number of
fishermen involved in the harvest, and the number (and species) of turtles landed each year.
Nonetheless, it is clear from interviewing local fishermen that nesting turtle stocks have
noticeably declined from pre-World War II levels. Nesting populations of leatherbacks (river
turtles) and green turtles appear to have suffered the most dramatic declines as a direct result of
over-exploitation. In the future, the commercial development of beachfront property will place
an additional burden on already depleted populations.

4.62 Goals and objectives

The broad goals of the proposed Sea Turtle Conservation Programme are to obtain
comprehensive and accurate data on the distribution of sea turtle nesting and foraging
populations and to promote the conservation and recovery of remaining sea turtle stocks. The
specific objectives of the Programme are as follows:

1. Determine nest density and nest success to provide credible estimates of reproduction
at two important nesting beaches on each island over five consecutive years, based on ground
surveys. Estimate leatherback (river turtle) nesting on St. Kitts using ground and/or aerial
surveys of Atlantic beaches and Sandy Point/Belle Tete.

2. Collect information relative to the distribution and abundance of turtles at sea over five
consecutive years based on sightings data assembled during proposed coral reef monitoring
programmes, as well as taking advantage of a volunteer sightings network.

3. Identify critical nesting and foraging habitats, based on the results of field surveys
described in 1. and 2. above, and develop holistic management plans for critical habitats.

4. Increase our understanding of the residency patterns and movements of local sea
turtles, including evaluating the extent to which turtles are shared with neighboring political
jurisdictions, by initiating tagging (and bio-telemetry, if possible) programmes.

Page 80

St. Kitts and Nevis Sea Turtles...

5. Quantify or closely estimate the annual exploitation of sea turtles, based on user and
market surveys, and the number of hunters/fishermen involved in the harvest. Evaluate
alternative sources of revenue for those who partially depend on turtle-derived income.

6. Revise existing legislation to protect all species of sea turtle at all times and enforce all
coastal conservation and management acts which provide the legislative background to protect
habitat deemed critical to sea turtles.

7. Improve law enforcement by increasing manpower and training personnel, both
employed and volunteer, and increasing public awareness.

8. Promote community support of and involvement in sea turtle conservation by
increasing public awareness. Sponsor and/or promote education programmes in the schools,
libraries, and communities and distribute press releases, brochures, posters, etc.

9. Solicit assistance from the public in documenting sea turtle nestings and sightings,
reporting illegal activities, and safeguarding turtles and nests.

4.63 Activities

The following activities are proposed in order to meet stated goals and objectives:

1. Appoint/hire a Coordinator for the National Sea Turtle Conservation Programme and
designate an agency or group as a depository for data collected; i.e., to assemble, maintain, and
update sea turtle information. This should logically be either the Fisheries Division or an
interested conservation NGO on each island.

2. Urge passage and implementation of the 1992 Fisheries Regulations which would
place a moratorium on the capture and sale of sea turtles and their eggs. Include sea turtles on
the Third Schedule of the National Conservation and Environment Protection Act (NCEPA).
Urge ratification of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna
and Flora (CITES) and the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine
Environment of the Wider Caribbean (Cartagena Convention).

3. Conduct interviews to estimate the number of sea turtles captured per year during the
recent (1980's) and historical (1920-1960) past. Conduct interview and market surveys to
determine the current number of turtles caught per year; continue data-collection until a
moratorium is passed. Determine the number of turtles involved, as well as size, species, place
and method of capture, and fate (market). Determine the number of fishermen involved.

4. Undertake daily ground surveys of nesting beaches over five consecutive nesting
seasons, with emphasis on two Index Beaches selected for each island (see section 4.291). With
the technical support of WIDECAST, employees and volunteers will be trained for this purpose
by the Division of Fisheries and/or the NGO community (e.g., NHCS, SCHS, Jaycees).

Page 81

CEP Technical Report No. 17

5. Conduct biweekly aerial surveys during the months of April, May and June over three
consecutive years, with emphasis on the nesting of leatherback or river turtles along the Atlantic
coast of St. Kitts and the Sandy Point/Belle Tete area.

6. Initiate long-term tagging studies at accessible and significant nesting grounds and
capture-tag-release studies at important foraging sites. There is little in-house expertise in this
regard; training in methodology will be solicited from WIDECAST personnel in Antigua,
Barbados, the BVI, and/or the USVI.

7. Acquire field equipment and data collection materials, such as measuring tapes, tags,
flashlights, clipboards, a small dinghy, and outboard engine. These may be obtained by direct
purchase or by soliciting the donation of items.

8. Provide for the long-term protection of important habitats by establishing Sea Turtle
Refuges or other protected areas. Candidate areas include Southeast Peninsula beaches and the
Atlantic coast of St. Kitts from Cayon River to Key Ghaut; on Nevis, Hurricane Hill beach is a
promising site. Hire and train wardens to enforce compliance with appropriate regulations.

9. Develop holistic management plans for critical nesting and foraging habitats within the
context of existing legislation, taking into account the specific recommendations of this
Recovery Action Plan.

10. Improve enforcement by hiring conservation enforcement personnel (most likely
under the Divisions of Fisheries or Conservation, Department of Agriculture) and encouraging
citizens to report any incidents of illegal or harmful behaviour toward sea turtles. Enlist the
media in publicizing arrests, convictions, and penalties.

11. Provide training opportunities for field personnel in data collection techniques.
Whenever possible, encourage persons to attend relevant training programmes overseas (such as
the training course offered at Tortuguero, Costa Rica) or visit ongoing research projects in
neighboring islands (such as the leatherback research project at Sandy Point National Wildlife
Refuge, St. Croix, and the hawksbill research project at Jumby Bay Resort, Antigua).

12. Host workshops for field survey personnel, SCUBA dive operators, yacht and
charterboat crews, etc. to provide training in sea turtle identification. This will promote accurate
reporting of nesting and at-sea sightings, as well as enhance public awareness of depleted turtle
stocks and the effects of poor diving and boating etiquette. Provide volunteers with log books.

13. Record sightings of sea turtles as part of ongoing SCUBA dive and charter boat
operations and proposed coral reef monitoring programmes. Enlist the support of WIDECAST
in the design of data sheets for this purpose and the training of participants.

14. Host "Town Meetings" on both islands, or take advantage other relevant forums (e.g.,
meetings of fisherman's cooperatives) for fishermen in order to provide them with information
on sea turtle biology and conservation, to solicit their support for a ban on turtle fishing, and to
educate them on the alternatives to turtle harvest.

Page 82