WIDECAST Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan for the NetherlandsAntilles (Karen L. Eckert, Editor). CEP Technical Report No. 11


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WIDECAST Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan for the NetherlandsAntilles (Karen L. Eckert, Editor). CEP Technical Report No. 11
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WIDECAST Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan for the Netherlands Antilles (Karen L. Eckert, Editor). CEP Technical Report No. 11
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Sybesma, Jeffrey.
UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme
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Kingston, Jamaica
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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
        Page i
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
    List of tables and figures
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
        Page xiv
        Page xv
        Page xvi
        Page xvii
        Page xviii
    I. Introduction
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
    II. Status and distribution of sea turtles
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
    III. Stresses on sea turtles
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    IV. Solutions to stresses on sea turtles
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        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
    V. Literature cited
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
    Figures 1-7
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
    Back Cover
        Page 64
        Page 65
Full Text


Caribbean Environment Programme
United Nations Environment Programme

Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan
for Netherlands Antilles

Jeffrey Sybesma

Executive Coordinator, WIDECAST-Netherlands Antilles
Manager, Curacao Underwater Park (STINAPA)

Karen Lind Eckert, Editor

Prepared by:

Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network

CEP Technical Report No. 11



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' Red Data Book, persistent over-exploitation, especially of adult
females on the nesting beach, and the widespread collection of eggs are largely responsible for the En-
dangered 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, re-
sulting in death to tens of thousands of turtles annually. Coral reef and sea grass degradation, oil spills,
chemical waste, persistent plastic and other marine debris, high density coastal development, and an
increase in ocean-based tourism have damaged 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 kilo-
meters 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 Devel-
opment of the Caribbean Environment Programme (1990-1995) alls for "the development of specific
management plans for economically and ecologically important species", making particular 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". Six species of Caribbean-occurring sea turtles were included in Annex II in 1991.

This CEP Technical Report is the first 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 institu-
tions. Each recovery action plan summarizes the known distribution of sea turtles, discusses major
causes of mortality, evaluates the effectiveness of existing conservation laws, and priorities imple-
menting measures for stock recovery. WIDECAST was founded in 1981 by Monitor International, in
response to a recommendation by the IUCN/CCA Meeting of Non-Governmental Caribbean Organiza-
tions on Living Resources 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. 11


The realization of this Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan would not have been possible without
the assistance and support of many people. In particular I would like to thank Ms. M. Schmidt (St.
Eustatius), Dr. Tom Van't Hof and Susan Walker (Saba), F. van der Hoeven (St. Maarten), Roberto
Hensen and Eric Newton (Bonaire), and Mark Frans (Curacao). STINAPA-CuraCao, as well as its
"sister organizations" on all the other islands of the Netherlands Antilles, and the Staff and personnel
of CARMABI are all gratefully acknowledged.

A very special thanks to Dr. Karen Eckert, Executive Director of WIDECAST 1/, tireless editor
of this publication, and good friend.

I also appreciate all SCUBA dive operators in the Netherlands Antilles and their divers, without
whom we would not have gathered as much information as we have. Last, but certainly not least, I
dedicate this Recovery Action Plan to those creatures we call sea turtles whom I deeply admire for
their hard struggle for life . made all the more difficult by our own neglect.

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 the
international WIDECAST project has come from Monitor International, The Chelonia Institute, the
UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme, and the U. S. National Marine Fisheries Service.

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...


Preface i
Acknowledgements ii
Table of Contents iii
List of Tables and Figures vi
Abstract (English, Dutch, Spanish, French) vii


1.1 General Description of the Netherlands Antilles 1
1.2 Historic Overview of Sea Turtles 2
1.3 Contemporary Efforts on Behalf of Sea Turtles 4


2.1 Caretta caretta, Loggerhead Sea Turtle 6
2.2 Chelonia mydas, Green Sea Turtle 7
2.3 Dermochelys coriacea, Leatherback Sea Turtle 8
2.4 Eretmochelys imbricata, Hawksbill Sea Turtle 9
2.5 Lepidochelys kempii, Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle 11
2.6 Lepidochelys olivacea, Olive Ridley Sea Turtle 11


3.1 Destruction or Modification of Habitat 12
3.2 Disease or Predation 14
3.3 Over-utilization 14
3.4 Inadequate Regulatory Mechanisms 16
3.5 Other Natural or Man-made Factors 17


4.1 Manage and Protect Habitat 17
4.11 Identify essential habitat 17
4.111 Survey foraging areas 18
4.112 Survey nesting habitat 19
4.12 Develop area-specific management plans 20
4.121 Involve local coastal zone authorities 21
4.122 Develop regulatory guidelines 21
4.123 Provide for enforcement of guidelines 23
4.124 Develop educational materials 23
4.13 Prevent or mitigate degradation of nesting beaches 24
4.131 Sand mining 24
4.132 Lights 24

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

4.133 Beach stabilization structures 26
4.134 Beach cleaning equipment 26
4.135 Beach rebuilding projects 26
4.14 Prevent or mitigate degradation of marine habitat 27
4.141 Dynamiting reefs 27
4.142 Chemical fishing 27
4.143 Industrial discharges 27
4.144 At-sea dumping of garbage 28
4.145 Oil exploration, production, refining, transport 28
4.146 Agricultural runoff and sewage 30
4.147 Anchoring 31

4.2 Manage and Protect all Life Stages 32
4.21 Review existing local laws and regulations 32
4.22 Evaluate the effectiveness of law enforcement 34
4.23 Propose new regulations where needed 34
4.231 Eggs 34
4.232 Immature turtles 34
4.233 Nesting females 35
4.234 Unprotected species 35
4.24 Augment existing law enforcement efforts 35
4.25 Make fines commensurate with product value 36
4.26 Alternative livelihoods for turtle fishermen 36
4.27 Determine incidental catch and promote the use of TEDs 36
4.28 Supplement reduced populations using management techniques 37
4.29 Monitor stocks 37
4.291 Nests 37
4.292 Hatchlings 38
4.293 Immature and adult turtles 38

4.3 Encourage and Support International Cooperation 38
4.31 CITES 39
4.32 Regional treaties 39
4.33 Subregional sea turtle management 40

4.4 Develop Public Education 41
4.41 Residents 41
4.42 Fishermen 42
4.43 Tourists 42
4.44 Non-consumptive uses of sea turtles to generate revenue 42

4.5 Increase Information Exchange 43
4.51 Marine Turtle Newsletter 43
4.52 Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium (WATS) 44
4.53 WIDECAST 44
4.54 IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group 45

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

4.55 Workshops on research and management 45
4.56 Exchange of information among local groups 46

4.6 Implement Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtle Project 46
4.61 Rationale 46
4.62 Goals and objectives 47
4.63 Activities 48
4.64 Results and outputs 49
4.65 Budget 49


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CEP Technical Report No. 11


Number of sea turtles killed at the Curagao slaughterhouse, 1955-1959.
The ratio of green to hawksbill turtles was not provided, but it is assumed
that most were green turtles. Mean weight of the turtles was 75 kg (from
Hermans, 1961).

Number of sea turtles killed at the Curagao slaughterhouse, 1977-1981.
Green turtles, hawksbills, and loggerheads are included (from Van Buurt,

The Netherlands Antilles consists of five Caribbean islands. The leeward
islands are Curacao and Bonaire, close to the mainland of Venezuela,
while the windward islands are St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba, form-
ing part of the Lesser Antilles archipelago.

Reported sea turtle nesting and foraging areas in Curacao.

Reported sea turtle nesting and foraging areas in Bonaire.

Reported sea turtle nesting and foraging areas in St. Maarten.

Reported sea turtle nesting and foraging areas in St. Eustatius.

Reported sea turtle nesting and foraging areas in Saba.

Four species of sea turtle are known to nest in the Netherlands Antilles:
the Green turtle or Tortuga blanku (Chelonia mvdas), the Hawksbill or
Karet (Eretmochelys imbricata), the Loggerhead or Kawama (Caretta
caretta), and the Leatherback, Driekiel or Drikil (Dermochelys coriacea).

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...


The Netherlands Antilles consists of five Caribbean islands. The leeward islands are Curacao
and Bonaire, close to the mainland of Venezuela, while the windward islands are St. Maarten, St.
Eustatius, and Saba, forming part of the Lesser Antilles archipelago. The sea turtles which are most
abundant in the waters of the Netherlands Antilles are the green-back turtle, or tortuga blanku
(Chelonia mydas) and the hawksbill, or karet (Eretmochelys imbricata). This is not surprising, since
these species are generally found closely associated with Thalassia seagrass meadows and coral reefs,
respectively, and these habitats are widespread in the Netherlands Antilles. The loggerhead, or
kawama (Caretta caretta) is less common and often encountered further offshore, although it is also
present in some of the inner bays, such as Lac Bay in Bonaire. The leatherback, or driekiel (sometimes
spelled drikil) (Dermochelys coriacea) is rare, being present on a seasonal basis to nest. Information
from all five islands indicates that sea turtles used to be far more abundant than they are today.

The sea turtle populations that remain in the Netherlands Antilles are stressed for many
reasons. A major consideration is the destruction and/or modification of habitat. Almost all nesting
beaches have disappeared or have been degraded because of sand mining or commercial and touristic
development of the coast; further, beaches are altered or trampled for recreation. Light from nearshore
buildings disorients hatchlings, confusing them so that they do not find the sea, while too many people
scare the females away. Pollution from both land-based and marine sources (sewage, garbage, and oil)
is an increasing problem throughout the Caribbean, and the Netherlands Antilles is no exception.
Anchoring and careless diving behavior have degraded coral reef ecosystems and diseases (e.g., natural
bleaching, black band disease) have also taken their toll. The extent to which these phenomena have
reduced important turtle foraging grounds has not been quantified. Marine turtles are also vulnerable
to a tumor disease known as fibropapillomas that has affected our green turtles and is known to be fatal
in other areas. Finally, there is the legacy of more than three centuries of uncontrolled harvest. While
progress has been made toward protecting turtles in the Netherlands Antilles, particularly in Bonaire,
regulatory mechanisms and enforcement remain inadequate on the whole.

The objective of this document is not only to summarize the status of sea turtles, including
agents that may compromise their continued survival, but also to recommend solutions to contempor-
ary stresses. First, it is clear that a more comprehensive knowledge of essential habitats is necessary.
This will require systematic surveys of potential foraging and nesting areas. The best areas should be
considered for protected status. Within these areas, activities that threaten sea turtles or the habitats
upon which they depend should be controlled or prohibited. Specific management plans for important
foraging and nesting areas need to be developed and implemented. This will require the involvement
of local authorities who have the responsibility to draft regulatory guidelines and provide enforcement.
It is of great importance that materials be developed to educate the public (residents, especially
fishermen, and tourists) as to why all these measures for the protection of sea turtles are necessary.
Such materials should emphasize national pride as well, noting that the Netherlands Antilles is taking
its place in the community of Wider Caribbean nations in recognizing the depleted nature of sea turtle
stocks, and in working to ensure that these animals do not disappear from our region.

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

An essential part of protecting sea turtles involves updating national and local laws and
regulations. In the Netherlands Antilles, on the national as well as the island levels, much can be done
to improve conservation legislation. Some of the islands, especially Bonaire, have good legislation in
place to protect sea turtles. Intermediate legislation is in place in Saba; Curacao, St. Maarten, and St.
Eustatius have no legislation whatsoever to protect turtles. Comprehensive island legislation, includ-
ing provisions for penalty and enforcement, is seen as a priority for the Netherlands Antilles. It is also
recommended that relevant international and regional protective legislation (CITES, UNEP Cartagena
Convention, and MARPOL) be implemented. Finally, suitable legislation strengthening enforcement
is a necessity.

A Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtle Project is proposed with the primary goal of achieving a
sustained recovery of depleted sea turtle stocks in the Netherlands Antilles and secondary goals of
gathering more data on the local distribution of turtles (especially nesting activity) and promoting a
public understanding of why the conservation and recovery of sea turtles in the Netherlands Antilles is
necessary. To achieve these goals, complementary action is required at both the island and national
levels. It is essential that each island of the Netherlands Antilles implement its own sea turtle project.
Because each island has its own local government, NGOs and legislation, the implementation of sea
turtle conservation and recovery actions will be most effective at the island level. In each case this will
require a Lead Organization to support and execute the project, a timetable and budget, a realistic
survey and monitoring program to gather data on turtle distribution and nesting, lobbying efforts on be-
half of improved legislation and enforcement, and increased public awareness and involvement.

In concert with the island projects, action by the Central Government is needed to link the
island programs together and to execute important national and international legislation. The govern-
ment agency responsible for the environment is the Department of Public Health and Environment,
which is currently being restructured to place greater emphasis on the environment. As part of an
effort at national integration, the Department should (1) urge every island to design and implement a
local sea turtle conservation project, (2) follow-up on the island projects and support local organi-
zations, (3) adopt national legislation to protect sea turtles (ideally within the framework of holistic
legislation protecting marine resources and the marine environment in general), (4) produce and distri-
bute general information on regulations and the protection of sea turtles, (5) establish communication
and information exchange among the islands by means of a newsletter or other mechanism, and (6)
raise and allocate funds for local sea turtle conservation. Cooperative programs with neighboring na-
tions should be initiated at the national level.

Using this decentralized approach, it is anticipated that several island programs will be imple-
mented in a relatively short period of time, perhaps by 1995. Specific results and outputs are expected
to include (1) comprehensive legislation for each island, as well as at the national level, that protects
all sea turtles at all times and major parts of their environment (the latter may be achieved by the des-
ignnation and support of Marine Parks or other conservation areas), (2) a better knowledge of the dis-
tribution and abundance of sea turtles, especially the nesting beaches of these animals, (3) detailed
recommendations to each island government regarding the protection and conservation of suitable
nesting beaches (a balance between development and conservation must be sought in this regard), and
(4) a better understanding on the part of the citizenry of why it is important to protect and conserve sea
turtles for future generations.

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...


De Nederlandse Antillen bestaan uit vijf eilanden. De benedenwindse eilanden Curacao en
Bonaire liggen dicht bij Venezuela, terwijl de bovenwindse eilanden St. Maarten, St. Eustatius en Saba
een deel uitmaken van de eilandenboog der Kleine Antillen. De meest voorkomende zeeschildpadden
in de wateren van de Nederlandse Antillen zijn de soepschildpad, in het papiaments tortuga blanku
(Chelonia mydas) en de karetschildpad (Eretmochelys imbricata). Dit is geen verrassing omdat deze
soorten respectievelijk voorkomen in zeegrasvelden (Thalassia) en koraalriffen. Deze leefgemeen-
schappen komen algemeen voor in de Nederlandse Antillen. De dikkop, kawama in het papiaments
(Caretta caretta), is minder algemeen en wordt vaker in open zee gezien, alhoewel hij ook wel in
binnenbaaien zoals Lac te Bonaire voorkomt. De lederschildpad, of drieldel (soms drikil) in het
papiaments (Dermochelys coriacea), is zeldzaam. Af en toe wordt deze waargenomen tijdens het nest
seizoen. Uit informatie afkomstig van.alle vijf eilanden kan worden afgeleid dat zeeschildpadden
vroeger veel meer voorkwamen dan vandaag de dag.

De zeeschildpaddenpopulatie die nog te vinden is in de Nederlandse Antillen, staat wonder druk
door verschillende oorzaken. Een van de belangrijkste aanslagen op zijn voortbestaan is de
vernietiging en/of verandering van zijn leefomgeving. Bijna alle neststranden zijn verdwenen of in
kwaliteit achteruit gegaan door het weghalen van zand voor constructie doeleinden en de commerciele
en toeristische ontwikkeling van de kuststrook; ook worden zandstranden veranderd voor en vertrapt
door rekreatie. Verlichting van gebouwen dichtbij de kust desorienteren pas geboren schildpadjes,
zodat ze de zee niet meer kunnen vinden, terwijl teveel mensen op het strand de vrouwtjes die eieren
willen leggen, wegjagen. Vervuiling, zowel vanaf het land als de zee (ongezuiverd rioolwater, afval en
olie), is een toenemend problem in het gehele Caraibische gebied, waarbij de Nederlandse Antillen
geen uitzondering vormt. Ankeren en onvoorzichtig duiken hebben koraalrif ecosystemen zichtbaar
aangetast terwijlziektes (bv. het verbleken van de koralen, black band disease) hun tol eisen. De
reikwijdte van deze aantastingen, die belangrijke fourageergebieden voor de zeeschildpad
verminderen, zijn echter niet goed genoeg onderzocht en in cijfers uitgedrukt. Zeeschildpadden zijn
ook gevoelig voor een tumorziekte bekend wonder de naam fibropapillomas. Het heeft onze
soepschildpad besmet en op andere plaatsen reeds tot sterfte geleid. Ten slotte is er de erfenis van drie
eeuwen ongecontrolleerde vangst. Ondanks dat er er vooruitgang is geboekt in de wettelijke
bescherming van zeeschildpadden in de Nederlandse Antillen, vooral in Bonaire, zijn de beschermende
mechanismen en de uitvoering ervan over het algemeen nog onvoldoende.

Het doel van dit document is niet alleen een overzicht te geven van de zeeschildpadden status
en de bedreigingen met betrekking tot hun voortbestaan in de Nederlandse Antillen, maar ook
aanbevelingen te doen om de bedreigingen op te heffen. Ten eerste is het duidelijk dat een betere
kennis van de belangrijkste leefgebieden van de schildpadden noodzakelijk is. Dit impliceert een
systematisch onderzoek naar potentiele fourageer- en nestgebieden. De beste gebieden moeten
vervolgens een beschermde status krijgen. In deze gebieden moeten alle handeliRgen die de schild-
padden en hun leefomgeving bedreigen worden gereguleerd of verboden. Er moeten specifieke
beheersplannen voor belangrijke fourageer- en nestgebieden worden ontwikkeld en uitgevoerd. Dit
vraagt wel de active participate van de lokale autoriteiten die de verantwoordelijkheid hebben voor
het opstellen van regelgeving en de uitvoer van control. Het is van groot belang dat educatief
material wordt ontwikkeld voor het publiek (inwoners van de eilanden, vissers in het bijzonder en

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

toeristen) om hun de zin van deze maatregelen ter bescherming van zeeschilpadden uit te leggen. Het
educatief material moet nadruk leggen op national trots, waarin tot uiting komt dat de Nederlandse
Antillen hun steentje bijdraagt binnen de Caraibische gemeenschap in het besef dat zeeschildpadden-
populaties sterk zijn verminderd en dat er hard aan gewerkt wordt dat deze dieren niet voor altijd uit de
regio verdwijnen.

Een belangrijk aspect betreffende de bescherming van zeeschildpadden is het updaten van
national en lokale wetgeving. In de Nederlandse Antillen, zowel op national als lokaal nivo, kan nog
veel gedaan worden aan de verbetering van natuurbeschermende wetgeving. Sommige eilanden, in het
bijzonder Bonaire, hebben goede bestaande wetgeving om zeeschildpadden te beschermen. Redelijke
bescherming is te vinden op Saba. Curacao, St. Maarten en St. Eustatius hebben echter helemaal geen
beschermende wetgeving voor zeeschildpadden. Goede wetgeving, inclusief mogelijkheden tot
control en het geven van ZWare straffen, is een prioriteit voor de Nederlandse Antillen. Aan te
bevelen is ook de uitvoering van relevant international en regional beschermende wetgeving
(CITES, UNEP Cartagena Conventie en MARPOL). Ten slotte, is het noodzakelijk dat de control
wordt versterkt. Milieu overtredingen moeten zwaar gestraft kunnen worden.

Dit document beveelt een zeeschildpaddenproject voor de gehele Nederlandse Antillen aan.
Primair doel is het herstel van sterk verminderde zeeschildpaddenpopulaties in de Nederlandse
Antillen. Secundaire doelen zijn het verzamelen van meer gegevens over de lokale verspreiding van
deze dieren (vooral mbt het leggen van eieren) en het stimuleren van publiek begrip waarom de
bescherming en het hers tel van zeeschildpaddenpopulaties in de Nederlandse Antillen noodzakelijk is.
Om deze doelstellingen te bereiken zullen zowel op eilandelijk nivo als national nivo aktiviteiten
moeten worden ontplooid. Het is belangrijk dat elk eiland van de Nederlandse Antillen zijn eigen
zeeschildpaddenproject uitvoert. Omdat elk eiland zijn eigen overhead, eigen natuurinstellingen en
eigen wetgeving heeft, zal de uitvoer van zeeschildpadden bescherming en herstel het meest effectief
zijn op eilandelijk nivo. Dit heeft als consequentie dat er op elk eiland een voortrekkersorganisatie
moet worden geidentificeerd die het eilandelijke schildpaddenproject opstelt, uitvoert en een
tijdschema en budget vastgelegt. Het project moet bestaan uit een realistisch onderzoeks en
monitorprogramma om gegevens te verzamelen over schildpaddenverspreiding en nestgedrag, lobby-
activiteiten ter verbetering van wet- en regelgeving, control van bestaande wetgeving en educate ter
verbetering van de kennis en inzet van het publiek.

Samen met de eilandelijke projecten, zal actie van de central overhead noodzakelijk zijn om de
diverse projecten aan elkaar te koppelen en om belangrijke nation ale en international wetgeving uit te
voeren. Binnen de central overhead is het department van volksgezondheid en milieuhygiene
(VOMIL) hiervoor verantwoordelijk. Dit department ondergaat momenteel een volledige reorganisatie
waarbij meer nadruk gelegd wordt op het milieu. Het department VOMIL moet pressie uitoefenen op
elk eiland om een eigen project ter bescherming van de zeeschildpadden op te stellen en uit te voeren.
Het zal follow up aan deze projecten moeten geven en daar waar nodig hulp bieden aan lokale
organisaties op dit gebied. Tevens zal het national wetgeving ter bescherming van zeeschildpadden
moeten concipieren (ideaal zou zijn indien dit deel uitmaakt van een algehele aanpak ter bescherming
van marine hulpbronnen en het marine milieu). Ook moet een system van algemene informatie en
communicate tussen de eilanden worden opgezet door middel van bv. een zeeschildpaddennieuwsbrief

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

of ander mechanism. Het aanboren en verspreiden van fondsen voor lokale projecten ter bescherming
van de schildpadden behoort oa. ook tot de taken van het department VOMIL. Verder zal op
national nivo een samenwerkingsverband met omringende landen moeten worden gestart.

Deze gedecentraliseerde aanpak geeft de mogelijkheid dat sommige eilanden hun projecten
binnen betrekkelijke korte tijd kunnen uitvoeren, bijvoorbeeld uiterlijk 1995. Verwachte specifieke
resultaten zijn: (1) goede eilandelijke en national wetgeving die aile levensstadia van zeeschildpadden
en de grootste delen van hun leefomgeving ten aile tijden beschermt (het laatste kan bv. worden bereikt
door de installing van onderwaterparken of beschermde marine gebieden), (2) een betere kennis van
de verspreiding en het voorkomen van zeeschildpadden (in het bijzonder met betrekking tot de strand
en waar ze nesten), (3) gedetailleerde aanbevelingen naar alle eilandgebieden toe hoe de neststranden
het beste beschermd en bewaard kunnen blijven (hierbij zal naar een even wicht tussen ontwikkeling
en bescherming moeten worden gezocht) en (4) een better begrip vanuit de burgerij waarom het
noodzakelijk is om zeeschildpadden te beschermen voor het nageslacht.

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CEP Technical Report No. 11


Las Antillas Holandesas comprenden cinco islas del Caribe. Curagao y Bonaire, ubicadas cerca
de Venezuela continental, constituyen las Islas de Sotavento; San Martin, San Eustasio y Saba que
forman parte del archipielago de las Antillas Menores constituyen las Islas de Barlovento. Las tortugas
marinas que mas abundan en el mar de las Antillas Holandesas son la tortuga de caparazon verde o
tortuga blanku (Chelonia mydas) y la tortuga carey o karet (Eretmochelys imbricata). Esto no es
sorprendente dado que estas species normalmente se asocian con los prados de hierba marina
Thalassia y los arrecifes coralinos respectivamente, y estos habitats son comunes en las Antillas
Holandesas. La tortuga de mar o kawama (Caretta caretta) es menos comun y a menudo se encuentra
mas lejos de la costa, aunque tambien aparece en algunas de las bahias interiores tales como Lac Bay
en Bonaire. La tortuga barriguda o driekel (a veces escrita drikil) (Dermochelys coriacea) es poco
comun y s6lo viene durante la estaci6n de anidar. Segun la informaci6n de las cinco islas, la poblaci6n
de tortugas marinas solia ser much mayor que la de hoy.

Las poblaciones de tortugas marinas que aun existen en las Antillas Holandesas sufren de
muchas presiones de distintos indoles. Una consideraci6n important es la destrucci6n y/o mod-
ificaci6n del habitat. Casi todas las playas que sirven de anidaderos han desaparecido o han sido
degradadas a causa de la minaci6n de la arena o el desarrollo commercial y turistico de la costa. Ademas,
las playas o son pisoteadas o transformadas para fines recreativos. Las luces de los edificios desoir-
entan a los recien nacidos que se confunden y no logran ubicar el mar mientras que hay demasiadas
personas que amedrentan alas hembras. La contaminaci6n causada por fuentes tanto terrestres como
marinas (desechos, basura e hidrocarburos) represent un creciente problema para toda la region
Caribefia sin excluir las Antillas Holandesas. El anclaje y el comportamiento desconsiderado de los
buceadores han degradado los ecosistemas de arrecifes coralinos y las enfermedades (por ejemplo la
decoloraci6n natural o la banda negra) tambien han contribuido a este efecto. No se ha medido el
grado hasta el cual estos fen6menos han reducido la extension de terreno utilizada para el forraje. Las
tortugas marinas tambien son vulnerable a una enfermedad tumorosa conocida como fibropapiloma
que ha afectado las tortugas verdes y ha sido fatal en otras areas. Hay una tradici6n de mas de tres
siglos de cosecha vigilada. A la vez que ha habido progress en los esfuerzos para proteger las tortugas
en las Antillas Holandesas especial mente en Bonaire, por lo general los mecanismos reglamentarios y
la aplicaci6n de los mismos siguen siendo inadecuados.

El objetivo de este document no s6lo es resumir el estado de las tortugas marinas donde se
incluira a los agents que puedan perjudicar su sobrevivencia continuada sino tambien recomendar
soluciones para las tensions contemporaneas. Primero, la necesidad de un conocimiento mas
comprensivo de los habitats esenciales es evidence. Para esto, se requieren encuestas sistematicas
tocando las posibles areas de forraje y anidamiento de las cuales las mejores deberan considerarse para
el estado de protegidas. Dentro de estas areas, se deberi controlar o prohibit aquellas actividades que
amenacen las tortugas marinas o los habitats de los cuales dependent. Hace falta disefiar e implementar
planes especificos de forraje y anidamiento. Para esto se require la participaci6n de las autoridades
locales quienes tienen la responsabilidad de directrices reglamentarias y la aplicaci6n de las mismas.
Es de suma importancia disefiar material para la educaci6n del public residentse, especialmente
pescadores y turistas) con respect a la necesidad de tantas medidas para la protecci6n de las tortugas
marinas. Tal material tambien deberia destacar el orgullo national, sefialando que las Antillas
Holandesas estan ocupando su debido lugar dentro de la comunidad de las naciones del Gran Caribe al

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

reconocer la reducci6n en las existencias de tortugas marinas y al luchar para que estos animals no
desaparezcan de la region.

La protecci6n de las tortugas marinas involucra de modo esencial la actualizaci6n de las leyes y
los reglamentos nacionales y locales. En las Antillas Holandesas, tanto a nivel national como insular
much se puede hacer para mejorar la legislaci6n en material de la conservaci6n. Algunas de las islas,
particularmente Bonaire, tienen buena legislaci6n para la protecci6n de la tortuga marina. En Saba, hay
legislaci6n intermedia; en Curacao, San Martin y San Eustasio no hay legislaci6n ninguna para la
protecci6n de las tortugas. Las Antillas Holandesas tienen como prioridad, una legislaci6n compren-
siva para las islas, que incluye disposiciones para el castigo y su ejecuci6n. Tambien se recomienda la
aplicaci6n de la legislaci6n regional e international pertinente a la protecci6n (CITES, el Convenio de
Cartagena de PNUMA y MARPOL). Finalmente, la aplicaci6n apropiada de legislaci6n consolidada es
una necesidad. Las violaciones ambientales han de castigarse hasta cumplir con los limits de la ley.

Se propone un Proyecto de la Tortuga Marina de las Antillas Holandesas con el objetivo
primordial de lograr la recuperaci6n sostenida de las existencias reducidas de tortugas marinas en las
Antillas Holandesas y el objetivo secundario de la recopilaci6n de mayores datos sobre la distribuci6n
local de tortugas (el anidamiento en particular) y la promoci6n de la comprensi6n de parte del public
de la necesidad de conservar y recuperar las tortugas marinas en las Antillas Holandesas. El logro de
estos objetivos depend de la acci6n complementaria a nivel national y de cada isla. Es menester que
cada isla de las Antillas Holandesas implemented su propio proyecto de tortuga marina. Dado que cada
isla cuenta con su propio gobiemo local, organizaciones no gubemamentales (ONG) y legislaci6n, la
ejecuci6n de la conservaci6n de la tortuga marina y las actividades de recuperaci6n seran mas eficaces
a nivel insular. En cada caso, hara falta un Organismo Principal que apoyara y ejecutara el proyecto,
un horario y presupuesto, una encuesta realista y un program de supervision para recopilar info.-
maci6n sobre la distribuci6n y anidamiento de la tortuga marina, acci6n de cabildeo a favor de mayor
legislaci6n y ejecuci6n y mayor conciencia y participaci6n del public.

En concerto con los proyectos de las islas, es necesaria la acci6n de parte del Gobierno Central
para enlazar todos los proyectos insulares y ejecutar legislaci6n national e intemacional de enver-
gadura. La agencia gubernamental a cargo de asuntos ambientales es el Departamento de Salud
Publica y Medioambiente que esta en el process de reestructurarse para prestar mayor atenci6n al
medioambiente. Con motivo de la integraci6n national, el Departamento deberia (1) instar cada isla a
disefiar y ejecutar un proyecto a nivel local para la conservaci6n de la tortuga marina, (2) el
seguimiento de los proyectos de las islas y el apoyo alas organizaciones locales dentro de lo possible:
(3) adoptar legislaci6n national para proteger las tortugas marinas (id6neamente dentro del marco de la
legislaci6n holista para la protecci6n de los recursos marines y el ambiente marino en general), (4)
producer y distribuir informaci6n general sobre los reglamentos y la protecci6n de las tortugas marinas,
(5) establecer el intercambio de comunicaciones e informaci6n entire las islas por medio de un boletin
de noticias u otro mecanismo y (6) recaudar y distribuir fondos para los proyectos de conservaci6n de
las tortugas marinas locales. Ademas de eso, se deberia iniciar programs cooperatives con los pueblos
naciones vecinos a nivel national.

Con este enfoque descentralizado, se anticipa que various programs insulares seran ejecutados
dentro de muy poco, quizas para 1995. Entre los resultados y rendimientos especificos a esperarse,

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

figuran (1) la legislaci6n comprensiva tanto a nivel insular como national para la protecci6n perma-
nente de la poblaci6n entera de tortugas marinas y areas extensivas de su habitat (este ultimo se puede
lograr con la designaci6n y mantenimiento de Parques Marinos u otras areas protegidas), (2) mayor
conocimiento de la distribuci6n y poblaci6n de tortugas marinas, especialmente las playas donde
anidan estos animals, (3) recomendaciones detalladas a todos los gobiemos de las islas tocante la
protecci6n y conservaci6n de playas propicias para el anidamiento (debe buscarse el equilibrio entire el
desarrollo y la conservaci6n), y (4) mayor concientizaci6n del papel de los ciudadanos con respect a
la importancia de la protecci6n y conservaci6n de la poblaci6n de tortugas marinas para las gener-
aciones futuras.

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...


Les Antilles neerlandaises se composent de cinq iles des Caraibes. D'une part, les miles sous-Ie-
vent sont Curacao et Bonaire, qui sont pres du Venezuela sur Ie continent, et d'autre part, les miles du-
vent qui sont St. Maarten, St. Eustatius et Saba, et qui font toutes parties de l'Archipel don't se
composent les petites Antilles. Les tortues de mer qui abondent dans les eaux baignant les Antillees
neerlandaises sont les tortues vertes ou tortuga blanku (Chelonia mydas) et les tortues a ecaille ou
karet (Eretmochelys imbricata). Ceci est tout a fait normal puisque ces deux especes se trouvent
souvent dans les eaux ou poussent les champs d'herbes marines Thalassia et des coraux
respectivement, et en effet, les Antilles neerlandaises favorisent une proliferation de tels habitats. On
rencontre moins frequemment, les caouans, ou kawama (Caretta caretta), qui se trouvent plut6t au
large des c6tes quoiqu'on les trouve aussi dans les eaux des babies interieures, telles que le Lac Bay a
Bonaire. On trouve plus rarement les tortues a cuir, ou driekiel (qui s'ecrit aussi drikil) (Dermochelys
coriacea), qui viennent, seulement pondre leurs oeufs de maniere saisonniere. Les informations
recueillies de toutes les cinq iles indiquent que les tortues de mer etaient jadis beaucoup plus
abondantes qu'elles ne Ie sont aujourd'hui.

Les populations de tortues de mer qui existent encore dans les Antilles neerlandaises subissent
des pressions a cause de diverse raisons. Une cause majeure est la destruction et/ou la modification de
leurs habitats. La plupart des plages a nicher ont disparu ou bien elles ont ete detruites a la suite de
l'exploitation des mines de sable et des activities de developpement liees au commerce et au tourism
dans les zones c6tieres. En outre, les plages subissent des modifications du fait de la mise en place des
installations de recreation, et de l'epuisement des terrains, suite a une forte presence de promeneurs. La
lumiere emanant des bdtiment construits pres de la cite desoriente les nouveaux-nes en les empechant
de trouver le chemin qui mene a la mer, et parallelement, un tries grand nombre de promeneurs
effrayent les femelles. La pollution emanant de l'interieur des miles aussi bien que celle d'origine marine
(telles que les boues d'egoft, les ordures et le petrole) accentuent Ie problem dans toute la Caraibe; a
ceci les Antilles neerlandaises ne font pas exception. La pratique consistent a jeter l'ancre et a longer
d'une maniere fort insouciante entraine la degradation des ecosystemes des ris de coraux. En plus, les
maladies (telles que l'amiante nature, et la maladie au ruban noir) ont ausi fait des degdts. On n'a pas
encore quantified a quel point ces phenomenes ont contribute a beaucoup diminuer les terrains d'alimen-
tation des tortues. Les tortues de mer se trouvent aussi fort susceptibles d'attraper une tumeur, connue
sous le nom de fibropapillomas, laquelle a frappe nos tortues vertes et s'avere mortelle dans d'autres
regions. Et enfin, on doit aussi tenir compete d'un heritage de plus de trois cents ans de la chasse aux
tortues incontrl1ee. Alors que des progress ont ete realises dans Ie domaine de la protection des tortues
aux Antilles neerlandaises, et surtout a Bonaire, les mecanismes regulatoires et la mise en oeuvre
restent en general insuffisants.

Ce document n'a pas pour but unique de resumer Ie statut des tortues de mer, y compris les
agents qui sont susceptibles de compromettre la survive continue de celles-ci; il preconise aussi des
solutions pour combattre les pressions actuelles. D'abord, il est clair qu'il faut une connaissance plus
exhaustive des habitats et ceci necessitera des enquetes systematiques des terrains potentiels d'alimen-
tation et de nichage. II faudrait envisager la possibility d'accorder un statut de protection aux
meilleures zones et a l'interieur de celles-ci; il faudrait contr6ler ou interdire toute activity susceptible

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

de menacer les tortues de mer ou les habitats dans lesquels elles s'alimentent. Des projects specifiques
de gestion. Relatifs aux zones d'alimentation et de nichage de grande importance doivent 6tre
developpes et executes. Ceci necessitera la participation d'autorites locales qui devront formuler des
principles regulatoires et &tre charges de leur mise en oeuvre. Il imported que des programmes de
sensibilisation du public (c.a d. les residents, en particulier, les pecheurs et les tourists) soient mis en
place pour leur expliquer la necessity des measures qui visent a proteger les tortues de mer. De tels
programmes doivent aussi mettre l'accent sur la fierte national, et doivent souligner le fait que les
Antilles neerlandaises sont en train de prendre leur place au sein de la Communaute des nations de la
region des Caraibes et de reconnaitre que les populations des tortues de mer s'epuisent et d'oeuvrer
pour assurer que ces animaux ne disparaissent pas completement de la region. Un volet important de la
protection des tortues de mer comporte la mise a jour des lois et des reglements tant a l'echelle nation
ale que regional. Aux Antilles neerlandaises insulaires, il reste beaucoup a faire en ce qui concern
l'amelioration de la legislation en matiere de conservation. Quelques-unes des miles, en particulier,
Bonaire, ont d'excellentes lois en place qui servent a proteger les tortues de mer. Une legislation
intermediaire est en place a Saba; mais a Curacao, Saint Maarten et Saint Eustatius, il n'existe aucune
legislation pour proteger les tortues. On reconnait qu'une legislation complete des miles y compris les
dispositions relatives a mise en vigueur et aux sanctions s'avere prioritaire pour les Antilles
neerlandaises. On recommande aussi que soient mises en oeuvre des lois appropries en matiere de pro-
tection regional et international (CITES, et la Convention de Carthagene du PNUE et MARPOL). Et
enfin, une legislation adequate capable de renforcer la mise en application est une necessite. Les
atteintes portees a l'environnement doivent 6tre punies avec toute la force du droit.

Une recommendation a ete formulee en ce qui concern la mise en place d'un project des
Antilles neerlandaises relatif aux tortues de mer; elle aurait pour but principal de realiser la
recuperation soutenue des populations de tortues de mer epuisees, avec, pour but secondaire, de
recueillir davantage d'informations sur la distribution locale des tortues (surtout concemant les
activities de nichage) et de promouvoir a l'intention du public les raisons pour lesquelles la con-
servation et la recuperation des tortues de mer s'averent necessaires aux Antilles neerlandaise. Pour
atteindre ces buts, une action complementaires s'impose aux niveaux tant insulaire que national. II faut
que chacune des miles qui constituent les Antilles neerlandaise mettre en place son propre project en ce
qui concern les tortues mer. Puisque chaque ile est dotee de son gouvemement local, de ses
organizations non-gouvernementales (les ONGs) et de sa legislation, c'est a ce niveau-ci que des
actions qui visent a la conservation des tortues de mer et a la recuperation de celles-ci seront les plus
efficaces. Dans chaque cas, ceci necessitera une Organisation Motrice afin de fournir l'assistance et
d'executer le project, de dresser un emploi du temps et un budget, et de realiser une enquete realiste et
un programme de surveillance afin de recueillir les informations relatives a la distribution et aux
pratiques de nichage des tortues de mer. II faut aussi des initiatives au niveau des groups de pression
pour obtenir une amelioration en matiere de legislation et d'execution et pout mieux sensibiliser et
faire participer le public.

Parallelement aux projects relatifs aux iles, une action de la part du gouvemement central est
necessaire afin de coordoner tous les programmes concernant les miles et de mettre en application une
legislation important tant a l'echelle national qu'internationale. L'organe gouvernemental charge de
l'environnement est le Department de la Sante Publique et de l'Environnement. Ce department est en
train d'etre restructure, afin de mettre l'environnement plus en valeur. Dans le cadre des efforts de-

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

ploys en matiere d'integration national, le department doit: (1) encourager chaque ile a mettre en
application un project local de conservation des tortues de mer, (2) assurer le suivi des projects relatifs
aux iles et dans la measure du possible, apporter un appui aux organizations locales, (3) adopter une
legislation a 1'echelon national afin de proteger les tortues de mer (le mieux serait de le faire dans le
cadre de la legislation holistique qui sert a proteger d'une facon general les resources marines et
l'environnement marin), (4) produire et disseminer des informations generales sur les reglements et la
protection des tortues de mer, (5) etablir la communication et l'echange d'informations entire les miles,
graces a un bulletin ou a un autre moyen, (6) se procurer des fonds et les allouer pour le financement
des projects locaux de conservation des tortues marines. En outre, des programmes de cooperation avec
les nations voisines doivent 6tre inities au niveau national.

En utilisant cette approche de decentralisation, on anticipe que plusieurs programmes seront
mis en place dans les miles dans un d'elai relativement court, d'ici a 1995 peut-6tre. On s'attend a ce que
des resultats et des actions specifiques comportent: (1) une legislation exhaustive pour chaque ile, aussi
bien qu'd l'echelon national, visant a proteger toutes les tortues de mer a tout moment ainsi que la
majeure parties de leur environnement (ceci peut 6tre realise en designant et en appuyant les Parcs
Marins ou d'autres zones de conservation), (2) une meilleure connaissance de la distribution et de
l'abondance des tortues de mer, en particulier les plages a nichage de celles-ci, (3) des recommen-
dations detaillees a l'intention des gouvernements de chaque ile en matiere de protection et de
conservation des plages de nichage appropriees (un equilibre entire developpement et conservation doit
6tre recherche a cet 6gard) et, (4) une connaissance plus pro-fonde de la part des citoyens en ce qui
concern l'importance de la protection et de la conservation des tortues de mer pour les generations

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...


1.1 General Description of the Netherlands Antilles

The Netherlands Antilles consists of five islands 1/ (Figure 1) which are inhabited by approxi-
mately 200,000 people. Curacao and Bonaire are known as the Leeward Islands, described in the
WATS I [First Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium] Proceedings (Van Buurt, 1984) as "Netherlands
Antilles South". In contrast, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba are the Windward Islands of the
Netherlands Antilles, or "Netherlands Antilles North".

Curacao (12010'N, 68018'W), the largest island in the Netherlands Antilles, has a land area of
444 km2 (Figure 2). It is the most populated with 150,000 people. It is the center of the Central Gov-
ernment and generates income through oil refining, harbor activities (container movements, dry-dock
facilities), offshore banking and finance, and tourism. The coastal zone consists of a steep rocky north
coast with rough water and a quieter south coast, also consisting of rocky shores but intersected by
natural harbors and both rubble and sandy beaches. The entire coast supports healthy fringing reefs
that are best developed along the south coast. Ten kilometers to the southeast of the east point of
Curacao lies a small island called Klein Curacao. It is uninhabited with a long sandy beach and is
infrequently visited by fishermen.

Bonaire (12012'N, 68077'W) has a land area of 288 km2 (Figure 3) and a population of 10,500
inhabitants. The island is very similar to Curacao, both physically and culturally. As in Curacao, the
language is Papiamentu. Bonaire has a small oil terminal for transshipment, the International Salt
Company (AKZO), and a well-developed diving tourism industry. In 1990, some 15,000 divers made
150,000 dives (source: Bonaire Tourist Office). The coral reefs are among the best developed in the
Caribbean Sea. The island has several sandy beaches.

The Dutch part of St. Maarten (18005'N, 63003'W) consists of 34 km2 of land (Figure 4) and
30,000 inhabitants. The other half of the island, St. Martin, is French. The island has developed in
recent years into a thriving tourist destination; the beaches on the southern coast are among the most
commercially developed in the Eastern Caribbean. At the present time, stay-over tourists number
about 400,000 per year (Central Bureau of Statistics, 1989). The island has several sheltered sandy
beaches. Offshore, the substrate is sandy with turtle seagrass (Thalassia testudinum). In certain places
there are well-developed coral reef patches.

St. Eustatius (17030'N, 63000'W) has a land area of 21 km2 (Figure 5) and is inhabited by only
1,500 persons. Its cultural history can easily be traced through the artifacts found all over the island
and in offshore areas. The island has some sandy beaches. The southwest coast has well-developed
coral reef ridges, interspersed with sandy channels. Shallow coral patches can be found at Jenkins Bay

1/ Aruba was formerly a part of the Netherlands Antilles. However, as of 1 January 1986, Aruba
acquired a "Status Aparte" within the Kingdom of Holland. A separate WIDECAST Sea Turtle Re-
covery Action Plan will address the situation of sea turtles in Aruba.

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

and Kay Bay. On the Atlantic side there is some coral development on steep slopes near shore; in
deeper water, coral patches and ridges occur in a mixed coral, sponge and algae community.

Saba (17038'N, 63014'W), the smallest island, has 13 km2 of land area (Figure 6) and a popu-
lation of about 1,100. Saba is a steep, dormant volcano. The island is surrounded by well-developed
fringing reefs and has two seasonal beaches (from about April to October), Wells Bay and Cave of
Rum Bay. Both the islands of Saba and St. Eustatius are in proximity to the Saba Bank. This shallow
underwater bank has some well-developed coral reefs and algae fields. According to Saba fishermen,
both habitats (reef and algae) serve as feeding grounds for green turtles and hawksbills.

1.2 Historical Overview of Sea Turtles

Sea turtles have never been described as abundant in the Netherlands Antilles, nonetheless they
provided an important source of protein in the form of meat and eggs for many generations. In a report
describing animal remains from Indian sites on Aruba, Hooijer (1960) stated that "these remains relate
for the most part to marine turtles (Chelonia mydas L. and Caretta caretta L.), indistinguishable from
the recent forms today living in the Caribbean Sea, but they do include also a small number of bones of

The use of sea turtles for food continued after European colonists arrived. Hermans (1961)
remarked that while sea turtle populations around Curacao were not large, there were sufficient
numbers of turtles brought ashore for slaughter that on 8 October 1737 the Governor declared it illegal
to kill them in the streets, further requiring that the slaughter take place outside the city. The decree
was in response to complaints from wealthy residents that the stench was unbearable. Two and a half
centuries later, the legacy of persistent exploitation is the fact that there are many places where turtles
could once be found, but today they are either absent or rare. Indeed, Hermans (1961) concedes it is
rather miraculous they have survived at all.

By the middle of the twentieth century, turtles were considerably harder to find than they had
been in the past. According to Hermans (1961), most were by then being harvested from the waters of
Venezuela, probably from Islas los Roques. Obtaining turtles from Venezuela was not new to the
people of the Netherlands Antilles. In early 1643, the Director of the West Indian Company (Island
Administrator) noted that there was not much to eat on Curacao and he sent a company of men to
Klein Curacao to obtain a few turtles. Soon thereafter, on 14 April 1643, he ordered vessels sent to
Isla Aves and Islas los Roques to see whether any turtles could be obtained, for he had heard that the
turtles were "fairly abundant during the months May and June." Again on 19 May men were deployed
to Islas Aves and Islas los Roques to find food.

Turtles brought home from Isla Aves in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were likely to
be breeding animals, but it appears that by the mid-1900's the catch was primarily composed of
juveniles and subadults. Hermans (1961) reported that the average shell length and width for green
turtles brought to the Curacao slaughterhouse was 83.50 cm and 66.75 cm, respectively. According to
a local veterinarian, the sample from which this mean size was derived was composed of turtles a little
larger than normally seen at the facility. Hermans also calculated, using data obtained from three tur-

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

ties (55, 79, 98 kg) examined at the slaughterhouse, that green sea turtles were composed, on average,
of 61.7% edible components. Numbers of turtles killed per annum during the mid-1950's are provided
in Table 1. Of course these data represent only a fraction of the total number of turtles harvested
throughout the Netherlands Antilles during these years, as Table 1 pertains only to Curacao.

Table 1. Number of sea turtles killed at the Curacao slaughterhouse, 1955-1959. The ratio of green to
hawksbill turtles was not provided, but it is assumed that most were green turtles. Mean weight of the
turtles was 75 kg (from Hermans, 1961).

Year Turtles killed

1955 116
1956 105
1957 104
1958 100
1959 105

Green turtles were generally preferred for consumption, though young hawksbills were
considered better eating in some areas (e.g., Banda Abau, Curacao) and in Willemstad the meat of both
species was available in the market with no distinction made between them (Hermans, 1961). With the
decline of wild stocks, meat became more expensive and was no longer predictably available in the
markets. Turtles were sometimes seen languishing alive in market ponds, awaiting purchase and
slaughter, perhaps because the price was out of reach for most consumers. Significant efforts were
eventually made to rear sea turtles in captivity. According to a colonial report (1915, cited but un-
referenced in Hermans, 1961), part of Spaanse Bay in Curacao was closed off to retain captive green
turtles for experimental breeding purposes. The animals were, however, subsequently released when
they ran out of food.

The local government of Curacao had a genuine interest in the possible cultivation of sea turtles
during the middle of this century. Therefore, CARMABI did some preliminary research on sea turtles
when it was established in 1955. However, this work never developed beyond the initial phase
(Kristensen, 1980). Similarly, there were efforts in Bonaire to cultivate sea turtles. According to
Hermans (1961), about 100 turtles were confined to an inner bay with the intent of rearing them for
food. He did not provide dates for this venture, but he did note that Bonaire had so depleted its turtle
supply that the demand for meat and eggs gave impetus to serious attempts at captive breeding. All
such attempts failed, however, and today there are no plans to engage in what are characteristically
expensive and low yield propagation schemes with turtles.

The slaughterhouse in Curacao is active to the present day, but only occasionally are sea turtles
processed there. The latest data available as to the number of turtles killed at the facility are from Van
Buurt (1984), who presented records from the late 1970's to the Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium
held in Costa Rica in 1983 (Table 2). Today the catch is difficult to estimate because turtles are ob-

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

trained largely opportunistically and there is no mechanism for record-keeping. Turtles are netted,
speared (though this is illegal), and sometimes grabbed by hand by fishermen fishing with hand lines.
Nets are confined mostly to sheltered, inner bays since the currents are strong in open water and there
is a great risk of damage to the nets from increasing boat traffic around the islands (Van Buurt, pers.
comm., 1991). Gill nets of 12-15 cm mesh are used in Lac Bay, Bonaire, and target both fishes and
turtles. Turtles that are brought ashore bring as much as NAf. 500 for a large animal. For a summary
of what is known of the present level of harvest, see section 3.3.

Table 2. Number of sea turtles killed at the Curacao slaughterhouse, 1977-1981. Green turtles,
hawksbills, and loggerheads are included (from Van Buurt, 1984).

Year Turtles killed

1977 16
1978 31
1979 13
1980 14
1981 7

1.3 Contemporary Efforts on Behalf of Sea Turtles

For the First Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium (WATS I), held in Costa Rica in 1983,
Gerard Van Buurt, Netherlands Antilles national fisheries officer, sent in 1981 an ad hoc report based
on his knowledge of the sea turtle situation in all the Netherlands Antilles islands (Van Buurt, 1984).
Soon thereafter, Anne Meylan published a paper entitled "Marine Turtles of the Leeward Islands,
Lesser Antilles" (Meylan, 1983) which summarized information on sea turtles in St. Maarten, St.
Eustatius, and Saba.

In 1985, the first formal contacts were established between CARMABI (formerly the
Caribbean Marine Biological Institute; now an ecological institute pursuing both terrestrial and marine
research on behalf of nature conservation and management) and WIDECAST (the Wider Caribbean
Sea Turtle Recovery Team and Conservation Network). CARMABI agreed to join the regional
WIDECAST project, and to formulate a Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan for the Netherlands Antilles.
Because at that time no one was actively engaged in sea turtle research and available data were
outdated and scarce, CARMABI began collecting basic data on all the islands through a volunteer
WIDECAST network. Jeffrey Sybesma, marine biologist and Manager of the Curacao Underwater
Park, was selected to be the Executive Coordinator of WIDECAST in the Netherlands Antilles.

In 1986, with the assistance of Quirino Richardson (Netherlands Antilles representative of
IOCARIBE), CARMABI received a grant from the Secretary of the Second Western Atlantic Turtle
Symposium (WATS II) to collect recent data on the different sea turtles and their situation in the
Netherlands Antilles. The results were later presented at the WATS II meeting in Mayagtiez, Puerto

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

Rico, in early October 1987 (Sybesma, 1987). CARMABI assigned Jeffrey Sybesma to act as Coordin-
ator of the Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtle Project. The new network of sea turtle volunteers on each
major island continued to regularly collect sea turtle data and to draw public attention to sea turtles.
Additional and valuable information was gathered from carefully designed interviews with fishermen.
By visiting marketplaces, seafood restaurants and souvenir shops, further knowledge was compiled.
Dive operators were asked to stimulate all divers to record sightings of turtles and local dive clubs
were encouraged to inform the network about their encounters with sea turtles. The media (radio, tele-
vision, newspapers) was also used to motivate the public to send in turtle information.

After providing network participants on all major islands with information on sea turtle
identification and behavior, the Project Coordinator distributed questionnaires according to the WATS
I Manual (Pritchard et al., 1983) and asked participants to gather all available data. In Saba, Bonaire,
and Curacao, data on sea turtle sightings were also collected. The period of data collection was August
1986 to September 1987. From 10-17 March 1987, the Coordinator visited the islands of St. Maarten,
St. Eustatius, and Saba. He met with all network members and personally verified the information he
received. Saba, in particular, was carefully examined by organizing several dives around the island, a
visit with local fishermen to the Saba Bank, and extensive talks with dive operators and Marine Park
personnel. From 12-13 March 1987, the Coordinator visited Bonaire and met with network members,
fishermen, park personnel, and dive operators. Data from Curacao were gathered by the Coordinator
himself during the course of the year. Island visits were made possible through a WATS II grant.

In July 1988 and in June 1991, CARMABI sponsored visits to Curacao by Dr. Karen Eckert of
WIDECAST. The 1991 visit also included travel to Bonaire, at which time very useful information
was received from government and non-government personnel about the status of sea turtles on that
island. During these visits, the draft Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plan was critiqued, expanded, and
improved. Now, in final form, the Action Plan includes the most up-to-date information on the
distribution and status of sea turtles in the Netherlands Antilles, a discussion of the threats to their
survival, recommendations for their conservation, and a summary of the national and international
legal responsibilities of the government toward sea turtles. While there are still several gaps in our
knowledge, it is hoped that this document will provide information and impetus to those in the Nether-
lands Antilles who are interested in improving the plight of sea turtles in our waters and throughout our


Zoogeographically, the Leeward Islands are grouped with the Guianas, Venezuela, Colombia,
and all the other islands near the mainland of northeastern South America. In contrast, the Windward
islands are grouped with the northeastern islands of the Lesser Antilles. Because of the distance
between the Leeward and the Windward Netherlands Antilles islands, it is likely that, in most cases,
the sea turtles associated with these two groups of islands are from different and distinct populations.
Four sea turtle species nest in the Netherlands Antilles (Figure 7) and a fifth, the olive ridley turtle
(section 2.6), has been sighted on rare occasions. The Kemp's ridley turtle (section 2.5) has never been
documented in the Netherlands Antilles.

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2.1 Caretta caretta, Loggerhead Sea Turtle

This sea turtle species is referred to as "Kawama" in Papiamentu, the local language of
Bonaire, Curacao, and Aruba. It is recognized by its large head, thick and somewhat tapered carapace
(=top shell), and often 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. Pritchard et al. (1983) report that
adults attain a straightline carapace length of 120 cm (nuchal notch to posterior tip) and weigh up to
200 kg. No detailed size or weight data are available from the Netherlands Antilles.

In the Atlantic Ocean, loggerhead turtles have been sighted as far north as Newfoundland
(Squires, 1954) and the waters of 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 on Masirah Island (Oman).
Nesting is also reported from the Caribbean coasts of Mexico and Central America, the Atlantic coast
of South America from Venezuela to Brazil, and in low density on several West Indian islands
(summarized by Dodd, 1988). The most significant source of mortality to loggerheads from the large
nesting colonies in the USA is incidental capture and drowning in shrimp trawls (U. S. National
Research Council, 1990).

Loggerheads are considerably rarer in the Netherlands Antilles than either the green or the
hawksbill sea turtles. Some historical data are available. For example, Euwens (1907 in Hermans,
1961) reported the nesting season in Curacao to be May-August. On Klein Curacao, the season is said
to have been July-December, during which time females laid some three nests per year on intervals of
14 days. Eggs were routinely located using a sharp stick and eaten, but for those which escaped detec-
tion, incubation was "about nine weeks" (Winterdaal, pers. comm. in Hermans, 1961). A low level of
nesting still occurs on Curacao, as evidenced by a successful hatch on Boca Manzalifia (north coast) on
30 June 1991. At 1700 hrs, 80-100 loggerhead hatchlings emerged from this nest; photo-documenta-
tion is on file at STINAPA, the Netherlands Antilles National Parks Foundation. Van Buurt (1984)
reported possible nesting by loggerheads on the north side of Curacao at East Point Bay.

In Bonaire, large juvenile loggerheads are occasionally seen in Lac Bay, but there are no recent
reports of nesting. Nesting may have occurred in the past, however, as evidenced by the comments of
Heitkonig that he collected a clutch of eggs laid on Bonaire and hatched them in a bucket (pers. comm.
in Hermans, 1961). Data collected for WATS I indicate possible nesting on a number of Bonaire
beaches, including Washikemba (Washikemoa, or Lagoen beach), Playa Grandi, Salifia, and Sorobon
(Van Buurt, 1984). Systematic study is needed to verify the extent to which loggerheads still nest on
the island of Bonaire. In the case of our northern islands, loggerheads are "present but rarely
encountered" in St. Maarten, a loggerhead was captured on the Saba Bank, and the species "has not
been recorded" in St. Eustatius (Meylan, 1983).

To my knowledge, loggerhead turtles are rarely observed offshore. There are no data to specify
what age/size classes are present. Preferred foraging areas have not been delimited.

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

2.2 Chelonia mydas, Green Sea Turtle

This species is the most commonly encountered sea turtle in the Netherlands Antilles. It is
referred to as "Tortuga blanku" in the Leeward Islands and "Green-back" in the Windward Islands. It
is recognized by a round, blunt beak with serrated cutting edges, one pair of enlarged prefrontal scales
between the eyes, and smooth carapace plates (=scutes) that do not overlap one another (cf. hawksbill,
section 2.4). The carapace is generally devoid of barnacles. The carapace color is light to dark brown,
sometimes shaded with olive, with radiating wavy or mottled markings of darker color or with large
blotches of dark brown. The plastron (=bottom shell) is whitish to light yellow. West Indian green
turtles attain weights of 230 kg (Pritchard et al., 1983). Adults generally measure 95-120 cm in
straight-line carapace length (nuchal notch to posterior tip); a mean of 100.2 cm (n=2107) is reported
from the Tortuguero nesting beach in Costa Rica (Bjorndal and Carr, 1989). Individuals of varying
sizes are present throughout the year in the Netherlands Antilles.

Green turtles are herbivorous and in the Caribbean they feed primarily on the seagrass
Thalassia testudinum (Bjorndal, 1982). Field studies indicate that individual turtles maintain feeding
"scars" by returning to the same area of sea grass meadow to forage everyday (Ogden et al., 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 (Bjordal, 1980). When the
cropped grasses show signs of stress (blade thinning, increased inter-nodal distance), the turtle appar-
ently abandons the scar and moves on to form another. Green turtles travel widely during their
juvenile years. Individuals are long-lived and require 25-35 years to reach sexual maturity in the
Caribbean (Frazer and Ladner, 1986). The age structure of populations foraging in local waters has not
been studied.

Sea grass meadows are rare around Saba and Curacao, but green turtles can be found in areas
where isolated grass beds occur; for example, green turtles have been reported foraging in East Point
Bay, Curacao (Van Buurt, 1984). In contrast, sea grass is extensive off the northwestern coast of St.
Maarten and foraging is reported throughout this area (Meylan, 1983). Green turtles have also been
observed feeding in northeastern Saba Bank (R. Hassel, pers. comm. in Van Buurt, 1984) and in the
lush grass beds of Lac Bay, Bonaire (Van Buurt, 1984; Roberto Hensen, Fundashon Marcultura, pers.
comm., 1991). In areas where grass is scarce, green turtles may feed on fleshy algae (see section
4.111); algae diets have been reported from some areas of the Pacific (e.g., Hawaii: Balazs, 1980).
Green turtles can be seen surfacing in the harbor at Oranjestad in St. Eustatius, but, since the harbor
lacks sea grass, it may serve as an area of refuge rather than forage. In Meylan (1983), one fisherman
related his view that small green turtles sleep near the pier in this harbor and then move offshore each
day to feed; 20 years ago, the harbor was a favored netting location.

The green turtle is occasionally found nesting on some of the least disturbed beaches on the
islands. No nesting activity has been reported in recent years on Curacao. However, on 24 August
1991, a day before the full moon, a green turtle came ashore to lay eggs on the small island of Klein
Curacao. She was flipped onto her back, left overnight, transported the next day to Curacao, and
offered for sale to the Curacao Seaquarium. A price of NAf 3000 (US$ 1650) was asked, but the
Seaquarium offered only NAf 750 (US$ 420). The fishermen refused and butchered the turtle. The es-

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

timated income from the meat does not exceed NAf. 400 (US$ 220). Nothing could be done about this
incident, because Curacao lacks any relevant legislation (see section 4.21). The killing was covered in
several local newspapers, showing at least some public outcry against these continuing practices.

On Bonaire, "two to three" nests per year are reported, mostly from Sorobon and Cai beaches at
Lac Bay and from Pink Beach on the southwest shore, as evidenced by the distinctive nesting pits left
behind (Roberto Hensen, pers. comm., 1991). Meylan (1983) reported a very low level of nesting at
Guana Bay and Oyster Pond on the windward coast of St. Maarten, at Long Bay on the southwestern
tip of that island, and on Flat Island; copulating has been observed in the Oyster Pond area. On Saba,
despite the fact that there are no permanent beaches, residents insisted to Meylan that hawksbill and
green turtles nested on rare occasions at Cave of Rum Bay, Wells Bay, and Fort Bay. Nesting may still
occur on beaches on the Atlantic side of St. Eustatius; Van Buurt (1984) reports nesting in Concordia
Bay during July and August.

The precise distribution, seasonality, and frequency of egg-laying are not known. According to
early reports, nesting occurred on Curacao between May and August (Euwens, 1907). Mating has
been observed at Klein Curacao (Winterdaal, pers. comm. in Hermans, 1961). Mating is observed off
Bonaire in late summer, mostly in August (Roberto Hensen, pers. comm., 1991). On the basis of
information available from other areas, 2-6 nests are probably laid per female every 2-3 years. Nesting
is nocturnal and clutches of 125-150 eggs are typically laid 12-14 days apart. In 1990, two green sea
turtle hatchlings were found in the water intake of Marcultura, a Bonaire mariculture operation, and
another in an intake canal of the International Salt Company. Most likely these had hatched on the
beach at Sorobon. Green turtles are harvested locally for meat (section 3.3).

2.3 Dermochelys coriacea, Leatherback Sea Turtle

The leatherback, called "Driekiel" (or "Drikil") in the Leeward Islands, is rarely seen in the
waters of the Netherlands Antilles, though there are reports from all islands that the species is
occasionally captured. The leatherback is the largest and most pelagic of all of the sea turtles. Adult
females weigh 250-500 kg and males sometimes exceed 900 kg (Morgan, 1989). Leatherbacks lack a
bony shell and cornified epidermal scales; the smooth, black skin is spotted with white. The carapace
is strongly tapered, generally measures 130-165 cm in straight-line length, and is raised into seven
prominent ridges. Powerful front flippers extend nearly the length of the body. Leatherbacks are
seasonal visitors, migrating from temperate foraging grounds in order to lay their eggs. Recent studies
using time-depth recorders on gravid (=egg-bearing) females have shown that individuals nesting in
the U. S. Virgin Islands spend their 10-day inter-nesting intervals diving to an average depth of about
60 m, and have attained maximum depths exceeding 1000 m (Eckert et al., 1989). Leatherbacks feed
predominately on jellyfish and other soft-bodied prey. They may dive to feed, or perhaps to escape

Hermans (1961) recounts that on 17 April 1947 a gravid leatherback was detained on a St.
Maarten beach by means of ropes; she subsequently escaped, became entangled at sea, and drowned.
The reason for her detention was not made clear; Hermans noted that the meat was not considered
edible. Nesting records on Bonaire include a July 1988 incident at Lagoen on the east coast. In this
case a gravid female attempted to nest in mid-afternoon, but was flipped over before egg-laying could

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

occur. She was subsequently released and returned to nest about three nights later (Eric Newton, pers.
comm., 1991). Elsewhere on Bonaire, high energy sandy beaches at Playa Chiquito and Lac Bay
(Sorobon, Cai) might possibly be suitable habitat for leatherbacks (Roberto Hensen, pers. comm.,

According to Meylan (1983), leatherbacks have nested in the "recent past" at Long Bay and
Simpson Bay, St. Maarten, "a few nesting records" exist for the Atlantic shore of St. Eustatius, and, on
Saba, one octogenarian recalled the nesting of a leatherback at Fort Bay "many years ago". Van Buurt
(1984) noted for WATS I that a leatherback was "once observed" at Corre Corre Bay, St. Eustatius.
There are no documented nestings on Curacao. The nesting season is assumed to be April-July, based
on data from the West Indies (Bacon, 1970; Eckert and Eckert, 1988; d'Auvergne et al., 1989).
Long-term studies of this species in the northeastern Caribbean have shown that gravid females
produce an average of 5-7 clutches per season and typically return to the same nesting beach every
2-3+ years. Clutch size averages 80-90 yolked eggs; a variable number of smaller yolkless "eggs" are
laid as well (Basford et al., 1990; Tucker and Frazer, 1991).

2.4 Eretmochelvs imbricata, Hawksbill Sea Turtle

The hawksbill turtle, called "Karet" in the Leeward Islands, is the second most common turtle
in the Netherlands Antilles. Many records of sightings, catch and, in the past, nesting, refer to this
species. Because of the well-developed coral reefs off Bonaire, Curacao, Saba and, to some extent, St.
Maarten, numerous sightings are recounted by SCUBA divers who have seen this species foraging on
the reefs. In addition, fishermen report foraging hawksbills in the waters of St. Eustatius, specifically
in Tumble Down Dick and Jenkins Bays (Van Buurt, 1984). During a 1992 marine area survey of St.
Eustatius by Tom Van't Hof and Jeff Sybesma, small to medium-sized hawksbill turtles were regularly
encountered. In some cases the turtles were quite tame and could be touched by hand by SCUBA
divers, especially off the southwestern coast of the island that is characterized by well-developed coral
reefs (White Wall).

Hawksbill sea turtles can be distinguished from other sea turtles by two pairs of prefrontal
scales (the scales between the eyes), carapace scutes that overlap one another like shingles on a roof,
and a relatively narrow, pointed head and beak. The carapace is typically serrated along the posterior
margin (becoming less so with age) and is "tortoiseshell" in color and pattern, showing radiating
streaks of brown, black, orange, and gold. Carapace color is geographically variable and may also
change with age (see Witzell 1983 for review). The scales of the head are dark brown with pale yellow
margins. Both adults and hatchlings have a "normal tetrapod gait" while on land, with alternating
movements of opposing flippers (Pritchard 1979). Adults rarely exceed 80 kg and a straight-line
carapace length of about 90 cm (nuchal notch to posterior tip). The diet consists of sponges and other
marine invertebrates.

Hermans (1961) described the nesting season in Curacao as July through November. He
witnessed an attempted nesting (the female was killed) in November 1960 on an unnamed beach in
Curacao. He emphasized how little was known about this species and offered his opinion that the
females nest 2-3 times per year at 14-16 day intervals. A nesting hawksbill was later caught (date
unknown) at Knip Bay beach, a busy bathing beach, in the western part of Curacao (Van Buurt, 1984).

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

In a 29 December 1982 letter to Fred Berry (U. S. National Marine Fisheries Service), Van Buurt noted
that at Wacawa, an inner bay on the north coast of Curacao, "more than 30 hawksbills were caught [a
few years ago] using a beach seine". Two were taken and the others were released. No documented
records of nesting are available for the past decade, although a low level of nesting surely continues in

In Bonaire, nesting peaks in September; some activity is also observed during August and
October (Roberto Hensen, pers. comm., 1991). According to Silvo ('Chibo') Domacasse, a life-long
resident of Bonaire, nesting used to take place on pocket beaches distributed along the coast of Bonaire
from Playa Lechi south almost to Punt Vierkant. Recent coastal development, including the interna-
tional airport, has eliminated much of this habitat. A recent condominium development has been built
at Punt Vierkant where 3-4 nests are laid each year, as identified by the tracks in the sand. Data col-
lected for WATS I indicates that hawksbill nesting also occurs, or occurred in the past, at Washikemba
(Lagoen), Sorobon, Salifia, and Playa Grandi (Van Buurt, 1984). In the latter case, the beach has been
virtually eliminated due to sand mining (section 4.131). Nests are occasionally found hidden in the
vegetation of Klein Bonaire, generally on the white sandy beaches of the northeast coast; these are
most likely hawksbill nests (Roberto Hensen, pers. comm., 1991). Van Buurt (1984) confirmed nest-
ing by hawksbills at Klein Bonaire and reported the season to be June to September.

Meylan (1983) reported that "a few hawksbills" nested at Guana Bay and Oyster Pond on the
windward coast of St. Maarten, at Long Bay on the southwestern tip of the island, and on Flat Island;
copulating had been observed in the Oyster Pond area. Despite the fact that Saba has no permanent
beaches, rare nesting is reported by residents at Cave of Rum Bay, Wells Bay, and Fort Bay; mating
has been observed in surrounding waters (Meylan, 1983; Susan Walker, pers. comm., 1991). Van
Buurt (1984) also specified Cave of Rum Bay, a dark volcanic sand beach with rocks and pebbles, as a
nesting beach for hawksbill turtles. Few data exist for St. Eustatius. Green and hawksbill turtles
apparently nest on rare occasions, most likely on the Atlantic shore. Zeelandia, in Concordia Bay, is
frequently cited by residents as a turtle nesting area (Van Buurt, 1984). Small beaches at Nap, Corre
Corre Bay, Kay Bay and Crook Bay may be used (Meylan, 1983). No nesting has been reported from
Oranjestad, the second-largest beach on St. Eustatius.

Hawksbills have proven difficult turtles to study, both in the Netherlands Antilles and
elsewhere. Based on data that have recently become available from Antigua, we may conclude that
gravid females which come ashore on our beaches are likely to lay, over the course of the nesting
season (July to November?), four or five clutches of typically 150 eggs each at intervals of 13-18 days
(cf. Corliss et al., 1989). The female often lays her eggs deep in the shelter of beach vegetation. Little
evidence of the visit exists aside from a faint asymmetrical (flippers alternating) crawl about 0.7 m
wide leading to and from the ocean. Local fishermen reported to Hermans (1961) that eggs incubated
for 49 days. Data from elsewhere suggest a range of incubation periods averaging, in the Western
Atlantic, from 60 to 75 days (Witzell, 1983).

The potential foraging habitat available to hawksbill turtles in the Netherlands Antilles is
extensive. Hawksbills feed almost exclusively on sponges in the Caribbean. Their diet is taxonomical-
ly narrow, apparently highly uniform geographically, and includes sponges that are toxic to other ver-

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

tebrates. In a study of the gut contents of hawksbills from Panama, the Dominican Republic, and the
Lesser Antilles, the ten most commonly ingested sponge species were Geodia sp., Ancorina sp.,
Ecionemia sp., Myriastra sp., Chondrosia sp., Chondrilla nucula, Tethya cf. actinia, Aaptos sp.,
Suberites sp., and Placospongia sp. (Meylan, 1988). While there has been some effort to quantify
marine sponges in the Netherlands Antilles (e.g., Van Soest, 1978, 1980, 1984), detailed research is
needed to assess the distribution of sponges suitable as forage for hawksbill sea turtles.

In summary, individuals of various sizes are present in waters of the Netherlands Antilles year
around. Preferred foraging areas have not been documented and nesting is rare. From all accounts,
hawksbills appear to much depleted from their former numbers; present population estimates are not

One of the most prominent threats to the continued survival of the hawksbill is the international
market for their shell ('tortoise-shell'). In 1980, one tortoiseshell dealer in St. Maarten was buying
shell from several islands in the northern Leewards and exporting it to Holland. Despite the high price
he offered, US$ 100/kg, he was able to purchase less than half as much shell as formerly, presumably
because local hawksbill populations had been so badly depleted (Meylan, 1983). While there is no
evidence that turtle shell has been exported to Japan from the Netherlands Antilles, there has been
extensive export from other Caribbean countries (see Mack et al., 1982; Milliken and Tokunaga, 1987;
Canin, 1989, 1991), which could affect stocks in our waters.

2.5 Lepidochelys kempii, Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle

There are no records of Kemp's ridleys in the Netherlands Antilles, nor would the species be
expected to occur here. With the exception of a single recapture from Caribbean Nicaragua of a head-
started individual (Manzella et al., 1991), which may have displayed altered behavior due to having
been held captive during its first year (Woody, 1991), Kemp's ridleys are confined to the Gulf of
Mexico and northern Atlantic (Ross et al., 1989). 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). Some 42,000 females were observed nesting in a single day at the
primary rookery at Rancho Nuevo in 1947, whereas 200-400 females nest annually today. The species
nests almost exclusively in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico.

2.6 Lepidochelys olivacea, Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

Periodic reports by fishermen suggest that turtles are sometimes caught which are "different"
from the species normally seen or caught. These may represent rare catches of the olive ridley (see
also Hermans, 1961). Nevertheless, with only one exception there are no documented records of this
species from the Netherlands Antilles. On 26 July 1991, a Curacao fisherman landed a female olive
ridley weighing 30 kg (62 cm straight-line carapace length). The turtle was caught by a hand line on
the wave-exposed north coast of the island; the hook was baited with fish. The turtle was slightly
injured upon retrieval and later donated to the Curacao Seaquarium where it is doing well (Sybesma
and Hoetjes, 1992). The only significant nesting colony in the Western Atlantic is in Suriname,
primarily at Eilanti Beach (Schulz, 1975). Olive ridleys nesting in Suriname have declined considera-

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

bly 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). Diffuse nesting occurs in northwestern Guyana and in French Guiana (Reichart,


3.1 Destruction or Modification of Habitat

All the beaches once known as turtle nesting beaches are, to the best of our knowledge, either
no longer visited by gravid turtles or are visited only rarely. The major reasons for this appear to be
local exploitation, as well as the increasingly heavy use of beaches for recreation and tourism. There
has been a rapid increase in the recreational use of all beaches by the local population, especially on
Curacao, Klein Curacao, and St. Maarten. Extensive beachfront hotel development has brought lights
(section 4.132) and activity that may discourage sea turtles from nesting. Nearly a decade ago Meylan
(1983) concluded, "commercial exploitation and the loss of nesting habitat are the major problems
[facing sea turtles] today." Her statement is still true.

The removal of sand from beaches for building purposes has been very destructive (see section
4.131) and is the main cause of the poor condition of Curacao beaches. Sand mining no longer occurs,
but for occasional incidents of theft. However, good sandy beaches are nonetheless hard to find. The
situation is aggravated by the fact that the geological history of the island has resulted in very few
sandy beaches. The problem is recognized by the Curacao government, which has already restored
some of the beaches, and plans to do so with others, by adding a new layer of sand (section 4.135).
While sand mining has occurred to the largest extent on Curacao, it also presents a problem on
Bonaire. Playa Grandi on the north coast of Bonaire was a former sea turtle nesting beach, but
vanished after the sand dunes were mined away. Beach destruction can also result from natural causes
such as hurricanes, particularly in the Windward Islands, or the shifting and disappearance of beaches
through changes in current patterns. However, natural coastal erosion is a phenomenon with which
turtles have evolved and, presumably, to which they have adapted. Both Saba and St. Eustatius have
beaches that are susceptible to modification due to changing currents.

It is equally important to recognize existing threats to the marine environment, especially since
there is ample evidence that several species of sea turtle utilize the coastal zone for feeding, resting,
and/or 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 other areas the sewage is collected, but is then pumped through a
pipeline into deeper water, untreated. At the present time the offshore pipeline in Curacao is broken,
and sewage is routinely spilled near shore. A plan to treat all sewage using a few large capacity treat-
ment plants is being implemented. Two treatment plants are already in place, but it will take some time
to clean up the damage done over the years. Similarly, urban coastal development is occurring around
the inner bays, especially the Spaanse water (Curacao) and Simpson Bay/Simpson Bay Lagoon (St.
Maarten), and in these sensitive areas adequate sewage collection and treatment infrastructure is not
yet available. St. Maarten recently installed a sewage treatment plant for Philipsburg, but it is not yet

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

In addition to land-based sources of pollution, ships release operational discharges, sewage, and
other refuse at sea. International sailing boats routinely dump their sewage in the bays, and the in-
crease in motorboat traffic causes degradation of the marine habitat through increased pollution and
disturbance. Hazardous waste can involve small accidental spills of oil from the refinery or from
shipping movements, or can take on larger proportions, as when a tanker runs aground or experiences a
major accident. Fisheries and marine tourism (SCUBA diving) may also have negative effects on the
marine environment, especially when considered cumulatively. In particular, coral reef destruction is
an increasingly worrisome problem due to anchoring, line fishing (self-made anchors are found
everywhere along the reef), discarded or broken fishing lines, garbage (plastic in particular), and the
activities of recreational divers, the latter involving the touching and trampling of corals. Divers can
also frighten sea turtles away from their feeding or resting activities.

In some cases, whole ecosystems have been altered or destroyed by construction and develop-
ment projects. These have had an unquantified, but surely in most cases negative, effect on sea turtles.
Wagenaar Hummelinck (1977) offers a rather sobering discussion of recent modifications. The beau-
tiful Schottegat, formerly the largest inland bay of Curacao, is now one of the largest seaports in the
Western Hemisphere and the site of a large Shell oil-refinery. Spaanse Water, to the southeast, is
today a watersports center. The Rifwater also underwent major changes because of the growth and
modernization of the capital of Willemstad, while Caracasbaai became an important bunker station.
Piscadera Bay, west of Willemstad, is now hemmed in by large hotels and the outer bay suffers from
tourist activities. In June 1972, the entrance to the Piscadera inner-bay was widened by dredging; the
water is very turbid and land-based sources of pollution are at times serious. It is likely that at one
time these bays, like the present-day Lac Bay, Bonaire, served as rich foraging grounds for sea turtles,
particularly green turtles. This can no longer be the case.

In St. Maarten, again according to Wagenaar Hummelinck (1977), the rapid development of
tourism has brought considerable changes to the natural environment. The formerly quiet Great Bay is
now bustling with activity reaching as far as the deepwater pier at Point Blanche. The spacious
Simpson Bay Lagoon became hypersaline after its narrow entrance became closed during the con-
struction of a new bridge, after the old one had been destroyed by a hurricane. A few years later a new
connection with the sea was made at the opposite northeastern French side, while in 1972 the original
entrance was opened again. Now the Lagoon has two openings, and a growing importance for
recreation purposes. Meylan (1983) noted that in former times green turtles could be seen foraging in
the harbor at Philipsburg, St. Maarten, but with the construction of the deep-water pier at Point
Blanche and the accompanying increase in ship traffic, turtles are now rarely sighted. Near Oranjestad,
St. Eustatius, a 300 m long pier was constructed in 1976 (and will be replaced by a new one in 1992/
93) and an oil terminal and jetty were built at Tumble Down Dick Bay. These developments have
radically changed the natural character of the northwestern region of the island.

The extent to which we have already displaced our sea turtles can never be known, but now that
we are wiser about the importance of maintaining the integrity of our marine environment, perhaps we
shall be more balanced in our approach to coastal development in the future. Eliminating or restricting
the harvest of sea turtles and their eggs will not be sufficient to restore their numbers if sea grass
meadows, coral reefs, and sheltered bays are allowed to deteriorate. Of course, in this case it is not
only the sea turtles which will suffer, but also our livelihood (e.g., fishing, diving tourism) and our
entire natural heritage.

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

3.2 Disease or Predation

Little is known about the natural predation of sea turtles on the beaches or in the waters of the
Netherlands Antilles. Neither nesting nor hatching is commonly observed, although a report some
years ago quoted local fishermen to say that crabs may dig out eggs and s6ldachis (hermit crabs) eat
baby turtles. Certainly there is also some level of mortality to the hatchlings as they enter the sea and
are consumed by a variety of predatory fishes; this mortality is unquantified in the Netherlands Antil-
les. Similarly, we assume that sharks and other large predators consume juvenile and adult turtles in
our waters.

Since 1989, green turtles with a tumor disease have been sighted and caught by fishermen in
Curacao (see also section 4.144). The disease is diagnosed as fibropapilloma, a herpes-virus-like
infection that has been reported elsewhere in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean (Jacobson, 1990;
NMFS, 1990). To date, no tumor-diseased turtles have been reported from other islands of the Nether-
lands Antilles. Informal warnings have been issued not to eat the meat of afflicted turtles. Green turtle
fibropapilloma has also been reported from neighboring Venezuela (Guada et al., 1991) and it is exten-
sively documented in Florida (Ehrhart, 1991). The cause of this debilitating and often fatal disease is
unknown. The full extent to which the disease afflicts green turtles in the Netherlands Antilles is not

It is possible that foraging areas have been or are being degraded by a recent disease phenom-
enon known as "bleaching" in Caribbean reefs. Monitoring programs were established by CARMABI
and the Marine Parks staff to investigate this phenomenon and, although reports from other areas sug-
gested that the problem may have been severe, the amount of bleaching was not extensive in the Neth-
erlands Antilles. By July 1988, all affected species of coral were showing signs of recovery. However,
new cases of bleaching were reported in 1989 and 1990, and the situation became quite serious be-
tween September 1990 and January 1991. Data are still being processed, but it appears that during the
peak, in October, up to 85% of some of the major reef building corals (e.g., Montastrea annularis) were
locally affected.

Other natural causes of death in coral reefs and associated organisms which provide food and
refuge to sea turtles, especially to hawksbills, in the Netherlands Antilles are the "white band" disease
affecting mostly staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), the "black band" coral disease, and the 99%
death of the black sea urchin (Diadema antillarum) during 1983-1984. Because of the probable natural
origin of these disasters and thus far no available remedy or cure, not much can reasonably be done to
mitigate their effects.

3.3 Over-utilization

Utilization of sea turtles at the moment is mostly through catch by fishermen. Take of nesting
female turtles occurs on an opportunistic basis, but can be considered low because nesting is so rare.
There are few data available to evaluate whether or not the at-sea harvest is conducted in a biologically
sustainable manner. However, it is significant that, at least in Bonaire, the number of turtles caught an-
nually at present (250, estimated by the author) is less than half what it was a decade ago (500,
estimated by fishermen). In addition, the size of turtles caught has decreased. In earlier years, small

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

turtles were released. Today, all turtles caught are kept and they are usually 30-50 cm in shell length.
This is an indication that the population being fished is stressed.

In Bonaire, both hawksbills and green turtles are net-caught, mostly during the period of
June-December. Catch is limited during the rest of the year because of rough water conditions.
According to an older, reliable fisherman, annual catch in the late 1970's was about 40-50 per month
(about 500 per annum, green turtles and hawksbills combined). Today, according to the same
fisherman, catch has declined to approximately 20 turtles per month. Bonaire has a local tradition of
turtle meat consumption (green turtles are preferred for eating) and all turtles caught are used locally.
Turtle steak is served in some restaurants (e.g., Zeezicht, Bonaire) and is comparatively expensive,
about NAf. 8.5 (US$ 5) per steak. Some snack bars offer turtle sate (turtle meat on a small skewer) for
NAf. 1.7-2.5 (about US$ 1) per stick. There is no ornament trade in Bonaire anymore; however, the
shells from turtles caught for food are often sold. In June 1991, a fisherman offered Karen Eckert of
WIDECAST the shell from an adult green turtle he had butchered four days earlier at Lac Bay,
Bonaire, for the price of NAf 30. On 26 June 1991, the Island Council of Bonaire amended the Mar-
ine Environment Ordinance of 1984 to include the total protection of all sea turtle species (section

In Curacao, there is no special protection for sea turtles (section 4.21). There is no directed
turtle fishery, but turtles are taken quite regularly as bycatch by the fishermen. There is one
specialized dealer on the island who keeps the turtles alive until they are sold. Demand is not high.
The fishermen say they can catch more turtles if necessary, up to three per day per boat. There are
certain places, such as St. Joris Baai and the eastern tip of the island, where fishermen say they are sure
to catch turtles. Green and hawksbill turtles are caught in roughly even numbers, the fishermen make
no distinction between them, and the two species appear to be valued equally. Turtle meat and soup
are offered at a few restaurants on Curacao, but consumption is not very high. Prices per kilo of meat
range from NAf 8.5 to NAf. 17 (US$ 5-10) depending on the quantity. There is no demand for eggs.
There is also some import of turtle meat and shells from Venezuela, despite the fact that CITES
regulations in Venezuela forbid the export of turtles. The fishermen know very well that this is illegal,
but still meat can be obtained by requesting it of the sellers in the "floating market". This market
consists of Venezuelan fishermen who regularly come to Curacao to sell their catch. Whole shells
(>50 cm) are sold for approximately NAf 25.5 (US$ 15). Shells are not processed into ornaments.

In St. Maarten the harvest of turtles is very low. There is some spearfishing of turtles for local
use, but there is no evidence that nets are still used to purposefully ensnare turtles. The low catch
probably reflects a small demand. There is no indication that turtle meat is sold in markets or special
places and there are no restaurants offering turtle steak. This represents a marked change from the
situation in the early 1980's, when Meylan (1983) observed that turtle meat was in great demand by
tourists. She noted that the depleted nature of local stocks necessitated travel by the divers (who
captured turtles using spearguns) to neighboring islands, such as Anguilla and St. Eustatius. To the
extent that there is consumption today, it appears to be strictly local and not by tourists. There is one
fisherman who sometimes brings in turtles caught near St. Eustatius. The price for turtle meat is
approximately NAf 8.5 (US$ 5) per pound, which is cheaper than snapper (fish) or lobster. According
to the fishermen, there is more labor involved in the processing of turtle meat than there is for fish or

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

lobster. Since the price is lower for the turtles, it is not generally economical to target turtles. How-
ever, there are reports that fishermen from neighboring islands (e.g., French islands) come and fish

In St. Maarten, turtle shells and ornaments made from the shells can still be found for sale. The
shells found in souvenir shops are imported from other places and are rumored to come from the
Dominican Republic and/or Haiti. Demand by tourists is unquantified, but it is probably low. Since
the Dutch part of the island caters strongly to the North American tourist and the USA forbids the
import of turtle products (including ornaments), demand is not likely to increase. Again, this stands in
marked contrast to an earlier assessment by Meylan (1983) that souvenirs made from turtles were in
great demand by tourists a decade ago. It is good to see the improvement in the attitudes of our
visitors who are today perhaps better educated as to the laws concerning international trafficking in
protected species, such as hawksbill sea turtles.

In St. Eustatius, consumption of turtle meat is also very low and strictly local. Meylan (1983)
reported that turtles were killed on the nesting beach whenever encountered, but the extent to which
this still occurs is unknown. Today restaurants are very seldom offered turtle meat by fishermen, there
is no tortoiseshell industry, and trade in sea turtles is not likely a problem on this island. In Saba, sea
turtle catching is subject to certain restrictions (see section 4.21). Turtle catching is nearly
non-existent today in Saba; fewer than a dozen full-time fishermen catch sea turtles opportunistically
for their own consumption. During recent years, however, the spear-fishing of turtles was popular
among active SCUBA club members. Club members estimated in Meylan (1983) that 10-20 turtles
were speared per year, but she concluded that this was an underestimate and noted with surprise that
even adult turtles were taken. In order to capture a large adult, a long line and a float were attached to
the spear to allow pursuit of the turtle by boat, once the spear was well-lodged. The turtle quickly tired
and was landed with relative ease. There was a small tortoiseshell souvenir trade earlier in the decade
(Meylan, 1983), but today there is no such industry.

3.4 Inadequate Regulatory Mechanisms

One of the major concerns for the conservation of sea turtles in the Netherlands Antilles is the
lack of legislation. The central government of the Netherlands Antilles has no legislation on nature
management in general, or sea turtles in particular. With the latest decentralization plans, this respon-
sibility is delegated to the different island governments. Only Bonaire offers full protection to sea
turtles in its waters. Saba places some restrictions on the harvest, but the other islands have no sea
turtle conservation legislation whatsoever (see section 4.21). In the international arena, the Kingdom
of Holland has signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna
and Flora (CITES), but the Netherlands Antilles has not ratified it because we lack the necessary
national legislation (see also section 4.31).

There is an inherent difficulty in the legislative framework of the Netherlands Antilles, and that
is that legislation exists on three different levels; that is, the Kingdom, the central (Netherlands Antil-
les) government, and the island governments. Tasks and responsibilities are regulated through the
"Statuut" and the "ERNA". These basic laws have proven inadequate, and it is sometimes difficult to
interpret what level of government is responsible for a given task. Furthermore, with ever-changing

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

political ideas on the status of the different islands within the Netherlands Antilles and their rela-
tionship with The Netherlands, law departments on both the central and island levels are reluctant to
create new legislation. Under-staffing and general bureaucracy also contribute to the inertia. The re-
sult is that, with few exceptions, no new natural resource or conservation legislation has been accepted
by legislators since 1976.

Another major problem is law enforcement. Even the existing poor legislation is not being
enforced because of lack of personnel, funding, and interest by the police force. There is no special
enforcement agency for environmental laws and regulations. Some persons, such as the managers of
the three Underwater Parks (Curacao, Bonaire, Saba), have special police enforcement authority. Also,
the Environmental Service has personnel who have authority to enforce certain infringements of the
law, such as marine pollution. As stricter environmental laws are enacted, it is the recommendation of
this Recovery Action Plan that additional personnel be given enforcement authority in order to supple-
ment the efforts of the police force.

3.5 Other Natural or Man-made Factors

In 1990, a young hawksbill (about 25 cm shell length) covered with crude oil was found in
front of Kralendijk, Bonaire, and brought to Fundashon Marcultura by a fisherman. The turtle was
cleaned with kerosene and detergent and remains in the care of the mariculture facility. It seems well,
but does not appear to be growing (Roberto Hensen, pers. comm., 1991). Green sea turtle hatchlings
are sometimes caught in the water intake systems of both the salt company and Marcultura on Bonaire.
This represents only a minor problem, since few are caught and there is only one reported fatality
(section 2.2). Other factors affecting the survival prospects of sea turtles in the Netherlands Antilles,
beyond those discussed in the preceding paragraphs, have not been identified.


4.1 Manage and Protect Habitat

The identification and subsequent protection of marine and terrestrial habitats deemed critical
to the continued survival of sea turtles in the Netherlands Antilles is viewed as an essential component
of any effective recovery program.

4.11 Identify essential habitat

There have been occasional reviews of reptiles in the Netherlands Antilles (e.g., snakes:
Brongersma, 1940, 1959; lizards: Wagenaar Hummelinck, 1940; Lammeree, 1970), but, with the pos-
sible exception of Bonaire (Euwens, 1907; we were unable to obtain this paper for study), no syste-
matic effort has been made to fully survey the islands for sea turtles. This may be because sea turtles
were never abundant here, so these reptiles did not obtain the favor of early naturalists.

In light of the paucity of historical data, it is especially important and should be considered a
priority to implement surveys of the coastline for contemporary nesting and interview older residents

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

who may recollect the distribution of nesting in earlier years. To define important foraging habitat is
more difficult, but should be integrated to the extent possible with the activities of SCUBA divers,
fishermen, and research personnel who regularly visit particular areas and who are willing to accumu-
late sightings data over time. The efforts made during the 1980's under the auspices of both WATS
and WIDECAST to assemble available information on the status and distribution of sea turtles have
been extremely useful, and we must now build on our existing knowledge in order to effectively
identify essential habitats.

Habitat necessary for the survival of marine turtles in the Netherlands Antilles consists of both
nesting beaches and offshore foraging grounds. Green turtles and hawksbills are the most common
resident species for which foraging grounds are vital. For green turtles, Thalassia seagrass meadows
provide important forage. For sponge-eating hawksbills, coral reefs must provide the major source of
food. These marine systems, sea grasses and coral reefs, are also very important to the Netherlands
Antilles for reasons other than marine turtles. Sea grass beds trap sediments and prevent the adjacent
reefs from becoming smothered by silt; in addition, they provide food and shelter for a variety of fish
and invertebrates, including such commercially important species as the Queen conch. The reefs are
home to a multitude of fish that are in part dependent upon nearby sea grass for feeding and for shelter
during the early phases of their life cycles (Van't Hof, 1989).

4.111 Survey foraging areas

No thorough surveys of foraging habitat for sea turtles have been conducted. Suitable foraging
areas for hawksbill turtles may exist wherever there are well-developed reef habitats. General surveys
of coral reefs in the Netherlands Antilles have been published by Bayer (1961), Roos (1964), and Bak
(1975, 1977). The reefs of the south coasts of Curacao and Bonaire have been mapped very accurately
to a depth of 10 m (Van Duyl, 1985). A reef survey of St. Maarten was conducted by Tom Van't Hof
in October 1989 with the objective to identify and roughly map coral reefs and associated ecosystems,
and to describe the reefs and the quality of the reefs and associated resources. He concluded that
"most nearshore reefs and reefal structures along the coast of St. Maarten/St. Martin and Tintamarre
are moderately to heavily degraded" (Van't Hof, 1989). Saba Bank, in the territorial waters of Saba, is
an area of interest where few ecological data are available.

Sea grass meadows are not well developed in the Netherlands Antilles. With the exception of
sea grasses in some sheltered bays, such as Lac Bay (Bonaire), the only extensive grass beds are found
around the island of St. Maarten (ECNAMP, 1980; Van't Hof, 1989). Van't Hof (1989) reports that
these sea grass communities are generally in fairly good condition. Earlier surveys of marine vegeta-
tion provide useful overviews of algae distribution (Vroman, 1968; Van Den Hoek, 1969).

We believe that a baseline survey of coral reefs and sea grass beds is necessary before we can
understand the foraging habitats of sea turtles. For now, the best information available with respect to
the likely distribution of foraging areas is in the form of sea turtle sightings by fishermen, divers, and
others. The discussion that follows is an overview of the rather fragmented information that has been
contributed to date. Sightings of sea turtles around Curacao are very irregular. Some locations, such
as the North-West coast, are mentioned more frequently than others. On a quiet day off the North-

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

West coast, turtles can be seen floating at the surface in fields of drifting Sargassum. Species seen are
usually green turtles or hawksbills and the area should be considered important foraging habitat and/or
refugia for these species.

In Bonaire, regular reports of sea turtles come from the dive operators and tourists who dive all
along the sheltered coast of Bonaire, predominately western Bonaire and around Klein Bonaire. Again,
most reports are for hawksbills and green turtles. Foraging areas for hawksbill turtles exist in the reefs
all around Bonaire, and hawksbills are sighted regularly by dive tourists along the coast and around the
island of Klein Bonaire. Green turtles are more often seen at the entrance to and inside Lac Bay where
there are floating Sargassum fields and benthic sea grass. Loggerheads are sometimes observed from
boats, usually in the open sea, but they have also been observed in Lac Bay.

According to the two local dive operators, sea turtles are seen frequently (on average, once per
week) around St. Maarten, mostly from the boat en route to a dive spot. Around the island of St.
Maarten, especially the bays, turtle grass is common. According to Van't Hof (1989), Thalassia is
more abundant than described by Meylan (1983). Turtles are also reported by divers on the offshore
reefs: Cupe Coy to Plum Bay, Molly Beday, Pelican Rock, Cow and Calf, Grouper Rock, East of
Tintamarre (also reported by Meylan, 1983). In the vicinity of St. Eustatius, according to the only dive
operator, the same "big turtles" (presumably green turtles) are often seen in specific locations. There is
no indication that the foraging areas described by Meylan (1983) around St. Eustatius have changed.
However, it is important to note that the foraging areas described consist mainly of marine algae (e.g.,
Penicillum sp.), as opposed to flowering plants such as Thalassia, and coral reefs.

All around Saba, sea turtles (mostly hawksbills) are seen regularly. An average of one turtle
sighting per three dives is acknowledged by the Saba Marine Park Manager and the two dive operators.
The feeding grounds around Fort Bay are no longer as extensive as described by Meylan (1983) and
the reason may be that a stone crusher is causing a heavy level of siltation in Saba waters (section
4.147). Nevertheless, you can still find turtles in this area feeding on benthic algae. While turtle grass
(Thalassia) is generally thought to be the primary food for green turtles, the area considered by the
fishermen as the feeding area for the green turtles does not consist of turtle grass at all, but rather
algae. We found the same situation in an area on the Saba Bank, which we explored briefly. The
place where green turtles are seen often (and is mentioned by the fishermen as a feeding ground for
turtles) has abundant fleshy algae, but no Thalassia.

4.112 Survey nesting habitat

The contention that the frequency of sea turtle nesting in the Netherlands Antilles is very low is
based on our interviews with and reports from the public. However, it is necessary to adequately
survey our beaches by walking them in the early morning hours each day during the nesting season,
which, when all four species are considered, would necessitate coverage from April to November, in-
clusive. This is seen as a priority and we recommend that island organizations such as STINAPA [the
Netherlands Antilles National Parks Foundation] organize interested residents and provide them with
the training needed to identify evidence of sea turtle nesting (see section 4.55). WIDECAST is able to
provide data sheets and identification materials, as well as informal training workshops, on request.

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

Present data indicate that little nesting occurs on Curacao, where most beaches are more or less
disrupted by tourism development, high visitation, or sand mining. A recent (June 1991) hatch of
loggerhead turtles was reported from Boca Manzalifia (section 2.1). Turtle tracks (one set) were
reported in 1986 from Klein Curacao, but the island is too disrupted by visitors for turtles to nest
undisturbed (recreational trips and dive trips are organized regularly, mostly on weekends). In August
1991, a green turtle came shore to nest on Klein Curacao and was killed (section 2.2). In Bonaire, old
records exist for nesting on Playa Chikitu, Playa Grandi, Lagoen, Lac and Witte Pan, but few nests
have been reported in recent years. These include a nest not identified as to species at Witte Pan in
1981 (Tom Van't Hof, pers. comm., 1986), green turtle nesting around Lac Bay and at Pink Beach, a
1988 leatherback nest at Lagoen, and an unknown number of hawksbill nests around the island,
including at Klein Bonaire (details in section II).

A low level of nesting may continue on St. Maarten, but it is believed to be significantly lower
than in the past due to coastal development and the recreational use of beaches. There is no longer any
nesting along the Caribbean side of St. Eustatius where the beach was washed away a few years ago,
probably due to changes in currents. Not enough information could be gathered as to what extent
nesting occurs on the Atlantic side (Concordia Bay), but residents report that any potentially nesting
turtles may be disturbed by the lights of a newly built hotel. Such disturbance is cited as the reason for
a decline in the number of nesting turtles in recent years (Lloyd Courtar, pers. comm. in Van Buurt,
1984). There are two seasonal beaches on the island of Saba: Wells Bay and Cave of Rum Bay. Cave
of Rum Bay could well have some significance as a nesting area because it is totally inaccessible from
shore and hardly ever visited from the ocean (Tom Van't Hof, pers. comm., 1986).

4.12 Develop area-specific management plans

There are presently no area-specific management plans for sea turtle habitat in the Netherlands
Antilles. We face several challenges in developing such plans. First, the infrequency of sea turtle
nesting and the lack of comprehensive surveys to determine foraging sites make it difficult to identify
important areas; before effective long-term management plans can be implemented, suitable field
surveys will have to be undertaken (see section 4.11). Second, coastal and marine management in the
Netherlands Antilles is still a young discipline. Efforts to initiate this type of management through co-
operation between government and non-government organizations culminated in a workshop in
November 1987 to formulate a National Marine Program.

The National Marine Program was designed to discuss and set priorities on such topics as mar-
ine pollution, coastal development, marine research, marine parks, etc. Specific management plans to
protect important foraging areas and potential nesting areas can now be brought to the attention of our
various governments under the auspices of this Program (now the Ministerial Council for Sea Research
and Sea Activities, see also section 4.121). The Proceedings of the 1987 Workshop emphasized that,
besides coastal development for recreational use, consideration must also be given to certain beaches
as potential nesting areas (Richardson and Sybesma, 1988). The Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtle
Project (section 4.6) has as one of its objectives the development of island legislation that would pro-
vide for the protection of important sea turtle habitat. It is the recommendation of this Recovery Action
Plan that guidelines described in section 4.122 be integrated into any proposed management plan.

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

4.121 Involve local coastal zone authorities

The central government has a department of urban and rural planning (DROV) which includes
the responsibility for coastal areas. Previously, cooperation between this department and resource con-
servation organizations (e.g., CARMABI, STINAPA) or other island government organizations (e.g.,
the Environmental Service) has been on a voluntary basis. Now, under the auspices of the new Mini-
sterial Council for Sea Research and Sea Activities, a mechanism for improved cooperation is in place.
The Council was activated in March 1990 by a Central Government Decree to serve as an advisory
body to the Central Government and to the individual Island Governments. The Council, comprised of
representatives from all relevant governmental and non-governmental departments and institutes,
meets regularly and advises the government on a broad range of issues concerning the marine environ-
ment. It should be stressed that, in the future, by means of better cooperation between all govern-
mental and non-governmental organizations, decisions for development of coastal areas should be
based upon environmental as well as economic criteria.

4.122 Develop regulatory guidelines

Habitat conservation legislation in general in the Netherlands Antilles is deficient on all levels,
except for marine conservation legislation in Saba and Bonaire. Specific regulations will, therefore, be
needed to adequately protect important sea turtle foraging and nesting areas. Such regulations will be
essential in order to establish a framework within which appropriate land use and development
(commercial, recreational, residential) can occur. For instance, development proximal to important
nesting beaches should be required to design beach-front lighting in such a way as to preclude or
minimize the disorientation of hatchlings or nesting adults (section 4.132). Activities such as offshore
dredging, or the construction of jetties and seawalls, should be regulated in such a way as not to result
in the erosion of nesting beach habitat. Campfires and vehicle traffic on nesting beaches should be
prohibited, especially during the main nesting and hatching seasons (April to November, inclusive).
Native vegetation should not be removed and construction should be restricted to well behind the
primary dune line or boundary of permanent vegetation.

The following guidelines are recommended:

Sand mining: Regulations prohibiting the mining of beach sand (section 4.131) should be fully

Beach stabilization structures: No permanent impermeable structures, including breakwaters,
jetties, impermeable groins and seawalls, should be placed on the beach or the nearshore zone if it is
likely that such engineering structures will promote erosion and loss of adjoining sandy beaches where
sea turtles nest (section 4.133).

Access: Access to beaches should be confined to specific locations and strictly regulated so as
to minimize destruction of backshore vegetation and beaches by trampling and vehicle use. Whenever
possible, access should be provided by elevated wooden walkways built over primary dunes and
positioned to direct foot traffic. Parking lots and roadways (including any paved or unpaved areas

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where vehicles operate) should be positioned so that headlights do not cast light onto the beach at
night. The use of all motorized vehicles should be prohibited on all beaches.

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 struc-
tures, and the beach proper.

Setbacks of 30-40 m and 80-100 m from the line of permanent vegetation are reasonable guide-
lines for upland coast development and lowland beach coast development, respectively. 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.

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, does not directly
illuminate areas of the beach, and/or emits wavelengths (i.e., 560-620 nm) which are least attractive to
sea turtles (section 4.132).

Waste disposal: Dumping should not be permitted in nearshore, beach, or dune environments.
On the beach, discarded glass and metal can injure turtles and larger objects obstructing the beach can
prevent gravid females from finding a nest site. Trash cans and regular pick-up should be provided in
high-use areas. To the extent that beach cleanup is necessary, it should be accomplished using hand
tools (section 4.134).

Vegetation cover andfires: All attempts should be made to preserve vegetation above the mean
high tide line, especially native plants. Creeping vines and other plants stabilize the beach, offering
protection against destructive erosion by wind and waves. Larger vegetation can enhance nesting
habitat for the hawksbill sea turtle, as well as offer natural shielding for the beach from the artificial
lighting of shoreline development (section 4.132).

Fires should be prohibited on sandy beaches. Fires are a hazard to the surrounding dry forest,
create unsightly scars on the beach, may scorch sea turtle eggs and hatchlings beneath the surface of
the sand, and can disorient hatchlings. Beach fires should be restricted to designated grill facilities.

In addition to the beach management guidelines articulated above, regulations are also needed
in offshore areas to preclude indiscriminate anchoring in coral reef or sea grass habitats (section 4.147)
and to prevent the disposal of refuse at sea (section 4.144). These are common sense measures that
will not only defend important habitat for the benefit of endangered and declining sea turtle popula-
tions, but also ensure that sensitive areas are properly safeguarded for the future. A major improve-

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ment in the protection of marine habitat, including habitat important to turtles, has been the establish-
ment of marine parks in Bonaire (1980), Curacao (1983), and Saba (1987). Actual park management
is accomplished in various ways. In Saba, and more recently in Bonaire, the resources necessary for
adequate management are ensured by means of a SCUBA diver fee that is allocated to park
administration. In Curacao, a subsidy by the island government covers the day-to-day expenses of the

All three marine parks have put into place a system of mooring buoys to prevent boats from
anchoring in sensitive areas. Strict enforcement of rules and regulations (proper mooring, prohibition
of spear-fishing, coral breaking, pollution, etc.) by marine park staff who have law enforcement
authority will help guarantee the protection of the marine habitat. To prevent damage and destruction
to reefs and sea grasses in areas not put aside as marine parks, including St. Maarten, St. Eustatius, and
a major part of Curacao, protective legislation, such as Curacao's Reef Management Ordinance (1976),
should be enacted territory-wide. Furthermore, it is the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan
that the most important reef and sea grass areas in St. Maarten and St. Eustatius be protected by the
establishment of a marine park system; in St. Eustatius there are also suitable "marine historical area"
sites. The Curacao Underwater Park should be expanded to include, at a minimum, the whole south
coast of the island. In order to fully realize the legal and practical implementation of these recommen-
dations, mechanisms for financing these protected areas and a proper management structure must also
be defined and enacted.

4.123 Provide for enforcement of guidelines

Already some structure for the enforcement of legislation exists. STINAPA, the Netherlands
Antilles National Parks Foundation, has independent local branches on every island. Through their
marine parks organizations, where some personnel already have law enforcement authority, sea turtle
conservation could be incorporated and emphasized. In those places, such as Curacao, where a marine
park does not surround the entire island or where the island does not have a marine park (St. Maarten
and St. Eustatius), funding should be made available by the island governments to local STINAPA
organizations to implement enforcement of marine legislation and sea turtle conservation regulations.
STINAPA organizations should also control beaches that are suitable habitat for sea turtle nesting. In
Curacao, LVV [Department of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries] is responsible for the
maintenance of beaches and could, therefore, also play a role in protecting nesting turtles and their
eggs. The major problem, as always, is a dearth of supporting legislation.

4.124 Develop educational materials

If specific areas are designated as important foraging or nesting sites and protected as such, it
will be necessary to design materials that can be distributed to the general public (residents and visitors
alike) explaining why these areas have been chosen, what regulations must be obeyed, and how indivi-
duals can participate in the general recovery of local sea turtle stocks. The agency, such as STINAPA,
responsible for the management area will likely be in the best position to initiate the development of
these educational materials. Large wooden sign boards might be placed in or near the management area
describing how sea turtles fit into and contribute to the surrounding ecosystem. The more complete the

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

public's understanding of the habitat management plan, the more likely the guidelines will be followed
and the burden of law enforcement eased. Implementation of general public education programs is
further discussed in section 4.4.

4.13 Prevent or mitigate degradation of nesting beaches

As stated in the preceding text, sea turtle nesting is a rather rare event in the Netherlands
Antilles at the present time. Thus the priority concern is not preventing degradation to nesting habitats
because this has already happened, primarily due to widespread coastal development for the tourist
industry. We must instead focus on restoring former nesting beaches to a state where turtles might
possibly return once again to lay their eggs, mitigating existing threats, such as beach lighting, and
implementing systematic surveys of potential nesting areas (for a discussion of the latter, see sections
4.112 and 4.291). It is self-evident that if we do not act to preserve or enhance the integrity of poten-
tial nesting habitat, we will never again support significant sea turtle nesting on our islands. The
following subsections discuss several specific ways in which local beaches can be made more hospita-
ble for nesting sea turtles.

4.131 Sand mining

The chronic removal of sand from nesting beaches accelerates erosion and degrades or destroys
beach vegetation by extraction or flooding (saltwater inundation). In severe cases, saline ponds are
formed in unsightly pits left by mining operations, shoreline trees are lost to the sea, and entire beach
habitats are eliminated. With their loss, the coast's potential to support recreation, wildlife (e.g., sea
turtles), tourism, and commercial development is reduced. Playa Grandi, on Bonaire near the entrance
of Washington/ Slagbaai National Park, was lost when the dunes were removed during a sand mining
operation. To a lesser extent, Knip and Playa Abou, both suitable beaches for sea turtle nesting, have
been mined for sand. Both have recently been replenished with new sand, which is still stolen in small
quantities. The development of these beaches into popular recreational areas for residents and tourists
makes it unlikely that they will support nesting in the future (section 4.135).

It has always been illegal to mine sand from the beaches of the Netherlands Antilles, but the
regulations have only recently been enforced. The practice has now been discontinued on most of the
Dutch islands, and consequently the threats it posed have lessened considerably. The discontinuation
was precipitated by several factors: (a) demand for sand has grown faster than the beaches could
provide, (b) restrictions on beach mining have increased, and (c) sand without salt is increasingly
available. In the latter case, clean sand comes from Suriname where it is taken from the rivers or
extracted from interior limestone deposits using stone crushers. It is the recommendation of this
Recovery Action Plan that regulations banning beach sand mining be consistently and strictly

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,

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security or recreational lights, shine on the nesting beach, hatchlings often orient landward toward
these lights instead of toward the ocean horizon. The typical result is 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 artificial lighting. Studies in Florida
(USA) and Tortuguero (Costa Rica) reveal that the presence of mercury vapor lights all but eliminates
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. With this in mind, some beach-front owners in Florida have
switched to low pressure sodium (LPS) vapor lighting, which shines primarily in the 590 nm range and
has little if any effect on nesting females. Unfortunately, low pressure sodium lights do not appear to
constitute a complete answer to this difficult problem because they mildly attract green turtle
hatchlings, though to a much lesser extent than do mercury vapor lights (B. Witherington, Archie Carr
Center for Sea Turtle Research, 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 (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
kilometers 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), (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), and/or (e) alternative light sources, since 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 sea turtles are very sensitive
to light whilst they are on the nesting beach. Lights (even sodium vapor lights) should always be
shielded from shining directly on the beach. A common and effective technique for accomplishing this
is to leave or to plant a vegetation buffer between the sea and shoreline developments. As an alterna-
tive, shields can be built into the lighting fixture. Coastal developments in many parts of Florida are
required to turn lights out during specified evening hours during the hatchling season so as to reduce
the effects of disorientation. 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 per-
mits 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 Division of Fish and Wildlife, pers. comm., 1990). In Belize,
recent applications to build beachfront resorts have been granted with the caveat that there be no
"bright lighting on the beach" (Smith, 1992).

In the Netherlands Antilles, some beaches are being reshaped for enhanced recreational use.
Others have been developed with new and major hotel complexes and/or condominiums for the devel-
opment of tourism. All these activities result in more artificial lighting at night, which in turn may
discourage turtles from nesting. After the necessary surveys have been done to discover where sea tur-
tles still nest in the Netherlands Antilles, it is the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that
the island governments actively promote protection of the nesting beaches, perhaps including some re-

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

striction as to the type and extent of recreational and tourist development. At the very least, attractive
and effective lighting should be implemented as close to the ground as possible and lights should be
constructed so that they can be shielded from shining directly on the beach.

We also recommend that STINAPA send a letter to all hotels and restaurants built near the
beach asking that (1) security or other personnel report incidents of sea turtle nesting on the beach and
(2) lights shining on the beach be redirected or shaded during the breeding season (April to November,
inclusive). If the latter is impossible, the grounds should be inspected each morning in order to rescue
hatchlings that mistakenly crawled away from the sea. Rescued hatchlings should be kept quiet and
shaded in a bucket of damp beach sand until nightfall when they are to be released to the sea.

4.133 Beach stabilization structures

Only on the island of Curacao have breakwaters been recently erected parallel to the coast to
create a manmade beach. Other places do not have these kinds of structures, nor plans to construct
them. Since some beach stabilization structures may actually accelerate erosion, often precipitating the
loss of adjacent natural beach sediments, it is the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that
the construction of solid jetties, breakwaters, and sea walls be evaluated in light of potential negative
effects on proximal habitats which may be important to sea turtle populations.

4.134 Beach cleaning equipment

Mechanized beach cleaning equipment can crush incubating sea turtle eggs and its use should
be avoided. In the Netherlands Antilles this does not present a problem as beaches, such as those
adjacent to some hotels, are cleaned by hand. Cleaning equipment is modest and there is no evidence
that it is destructive to sea turtle nests. Raking seaweeds by use of a tractor or other heavy machinery,
should this become necessary in the future, 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. Tractor tire ruts above the high tide line can trap hatchlings and prevent them
from reaching the sea.

4.135 Beach rebuilding projects

Beach rebuilding projects are only known from Curacao. In 1987, the island used a modern
sand sucker to take 150,000 cubic meters of white sand from the northern part of the sea bottom of the
island. This sand was used to create manmade beaches in areas without sandy beaches and also to
replenish already existing sandy beaches with more sand, especially to make them more attractive for
the tourist industry. On beaches where there is some potential for sea turtle nesting, it is important that
sand placed on the beach is of similar constituency to that of the natural beach. Beaches rebuilt with
offshore sand are often unsuitable for turtles because of subsequent sediment compaction. The timing
of these activities is also important.

If there is evidence of sea turtle nesting on the beach, reconstruction should not occur during
the nesting or hatching seasons (e.g., April to November, inclusive).

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4.14 Prevent or mitigate degradation of marine habitat

Significant modification and even destruction of the coastal zone in the Netherlands Antilles
has occurred, as has been the case throughout the Caribbean resulting from advancing industrial and
touristic development. However, much has also been accomplished by the installation of marine parks
to conserve and protect coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grass meadows. Despite our advances and the
parks which are in place, there is still great concern about the degradation of marine habitat, especially
around St. Maarten which is heavily visited and where there no protected marine areas. Preventing or
mitigating degradation of marine habitat should be viewed as a priority. The following discussion
highlights some of our concerns with specific regard to sea turtles.

4.141 Dynamiting reefs

The use of dynamite to stun fishes or to remove coral reef structure (e.g., to provide boat
access) results in severe and sometimes permanent damage to the fragile coral. Fortunately, this prac-
tice is not known to occur in the Netherlands Antilles.

The slow-growing and virtually irreplaceable 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 the large number of SCUBA-
oriented tourists, healthy coral reefs are a vital component of the tourism industry. Finally, and most
relevant to this Recovery Action Plan, coral reefs provide refugia and forage 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

The application of chlorine and other chemicals in coral reefs for the purpose of harvesting fish
is not practiced in the Netherlands Antilles. Chemical fishing can cause extensive damage both to
coral reef infrastructure and to the many vertebrate and invertebrate species that live in these important
coastal environments. The use or discharge of chlorine and other poisons for the purpose of catching
fish or other marine life should be strictly prohibited in all waters of the Netherlands Antilles.

4.143 Industrial discharges

All the islands engage in small-scale (and sometimes large-scale) industrial activities, such as
docking, repair, and other industries connected with harbors. Thus far, the amount of industrial
discharge appears localized and not severe when the waters of the Netherlands Antilles are considered
as a whole. Nonetheless, several examples of land-based pollution are noted in section 3.1 and the
extent to which industrial effluent, which is so often toxic to marine life, is fouling our waters should
be carefully investigated and closely monitored. In 1992, the Council for Sea Research and Sea
Activities performed an inventory of land-based sources of pollution. The results have not yet been
published. A standard method provided by UNEP/RCU to estimate the levels of pollution by category

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

was used, and the results will be included in a regional document as part of the preparation of a new
protocol to the Cartagena Convention on the subject of regulating and preventing land-based sources of
pollution to the marine environment of the Wider Caribbean region.

4.144 At-sea dumping of garbage

Garbage from all of the islands used to be dumped in the sea. A few years ago this was prohib-
ited in Curacao and landfills were opened for this purpose. The other islands are also using landfills.
Recently a very weak green sea turtle was caught by fishermen at the north coast of Curacao in the
vicinity of the island's former at-sea garbage dump. The turtle was covered with tumors (see section
3.2). The extent, if any, to which the disease may be related to pollution in this area has not been
defined. In addition to land-based sources of garbage, a great problem (and a universal one in the
Caribbean) is the continuing disposal of garbage from boats. All vessels, from very large cruise liners
to small vegetable-carrying boats coming from the mainland, dump their garbage into the ocean.
Floating plastic bags are seen in the ocean more and more frequently. Plastic bags pose a very real and
very serious threat to sea turtles because they can be mistaken for jellyfish and consumed. Several
years ago, Mrosovsky (1981) summarized data showing that 44% of the adult leatherbacks examined
had plastic in their stomachs. A large amount of the debris in our waters is made in Venezuela.

International attention is starting to focus on this problem. UNEP/IOC has just offered the
Netherlands Antilles money for a debris survey and an inventory of the land-based sources of
pollution. Under these programs, more information will be gathered on the state of pollution from
land-based sources, as well as from other sources (e.g., ships, other countries). Further to this under-
taking, all debris will be classified as to type, manufacturer, etc. Under the auspices of the Cartagena
Convention and/or other regional agreements (section 4.3), Wider Caribbean legislation should be
encouraged to forbid the disposal of garbage at sea. The Netherlands Antilles Central Government
should then rigorously enforce such legislation.

4.145 Oil exploration, production, refining, transport

Sea turtles are potentially very vulnerable to oil spills. Behavioral studies suggest that sea
turtles have a limited ability to avoid oil slicks. Physiological experiments indicate that the respiration,
skin, some aspects of blood chemistry and composition, and salt gland function of 15-18 month old
loggerheads are seriously affected by crude oil (Vargo et al., 1986). In both experimental and stranded
oil-fouled turtles, Vargo et al. (1986) observed oil clinging to the nostrils and eyes and in the upper
portion of the esophagus; oil was also found in the feces. Chemical analysis of the internal organs of
the stranded turtles provided clear evidence that crude oil from tanker discharge had been ingested.
Since hawksbills are of particular concern in the Netherlands Antilles (being one of the two species of
sea turtle routinely encountered in local waters, see section 2.4), it is noteworthy that hawksbills
(predominantly juveniles) accounted for only 2.2% (34/1551) of the total sea turtle strandings in Flori-
da between 1980-1984, yet comprised 28.0% of petroleum-related strandings. In their study, Vargo et
al. (1986) found oil and tar fouling to be both external and internal.

There is no current oil or gas exploration in the Netherlands Antilles, although some test drills
have been done around the islands by different oil companies. Curacao has a large oil refinery, and

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

Curacao, Bonaire, and St. Eustatius all have oil terminals for oil transshipment, oil storage and bunker
facilities. In St. Eustatius, a small topping unit (oil refinery) of 10-15,000 barrels per day is under
construction and should be operational by July 1992. In addition, the Bonaire island government was
until very recently considering the possibility of permitting the construction of an oil refinery larger
than that presently located in St. Eustatius. Local and international communities have expressed a
deep concern about these projects, especially with regard to natural resource protection and conser-
vation, and in the case of Bonaire this concern (coupled with the hesitation of the island government in
making a decision) prompted the interested oil company to pull out. One thing is clear, and that is that
further development of refining and storage capacity in the Netherlands Antilles will increase the
already heavy tanker traffic to, from, and between islands. Oil residues from tanker cleaning and
minor operational spills (which wash ashore as "tar balls") will be more visible with the increased
traffic. Already a stroll along the Atlantic shore of St. Eustatius is spoilt by tar that accumulates on
shoes and feet. Early results from a research project undertaken by CARMABI in Curacao show tar
pollution on all north coast beaches and around the industrial areas of the south coast (Debrot 1992).

Large and small spills have occurred, and while the terminals are built in such a way that spills
do not immediately affect the coast of the Netherlands Antilles, neighboring islands are not always so
fortunate. For example, on 15 March 1992, a pipe ruptured at the Statia Terminal and spilled 3,000
barrels of crude oil. The majority of the oil was contained onshore, but some 150 barrels were released
to the sea. The oil formed a slick that remained near the Terminal Jetty for two days, but later drifted
northwest out across the Saba Bank where heavy seas broke it up. According to the U. S. Coast Guard,
it was a "medium spill". This was not because a large amount of oil was released to the sea, but
because of the potential damage that could occur to beaches on surrounding islands. Reports of beach
contamination by tar balls were eventually received from both Saba and Puerto Rico; beaches on the
neighboring islands of St. Maarten, St. Barth, St. Kitts, and Nevis were not affected. St. Eustatius had
only minor tar balls wash ashore, which were cleaned up by Terminal personnel. A large floating slick
formed in Jenkins Bay during the spill and oil was suspended in the water column; however, an
investigation a week later showed no oily residues either on the beach or in the bay. The coral reefs in
the bay look healthy, but the long-term effects, if any, cannot be known at this time.

Response measures taken after the Statia Terminal spill were, in general, adequate, but the
Terminal was not by any means prepared to act immediately. Booms and chemical dispersants could
only be used after they had been flown in. This occurred in some cases only after 48 hours. Because
of the delay, the spilt oil had already spread over a large area. The Central Government of the Nether-
lands Antilles flew in a team of experts to investigate the damage, and to advise the government on an
appropriate course of action. The Minister of Public Health and Environmental Hygiene was annoyed
by the unauthorized use of dispersants Jansol (approved by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA)) and Correxit (not EPA-approved) and threatened the Terminal with a fine for the resulting
environmental damage. The island government also issued statements of concern with regard to the
use of dispersants. There were no reports of wildlife being affected by the 1992 spill, but the potential
is certainly there. In 1990, a young hawksbill covered with crude oil was found in front of Kralendijk,
onaire, and brought to Fundashon Marcultura by a fisherman. The turtle was cleaned with kerosene
and detergent and remains in the care of the mariculture facility (section 3.5).

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It is essential that in the case of a spill or other marine disaster, the island and national govern-
ments be in a position to move quickly to contain the damage. In this issue, the promotion of tourism
works on the side of conservation because it is the crystal-clear water that attracts the tourists.
Although Curacao has finished an Oil Spill Contingency Plan and similar plans are now being
developed for Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and the Netherlands Antilles as a whole, the pace at which such
plans are developed and implemented is agonizingly slow. The Terminal accident in St. Eustatius
showed with perfect clarity that small islands are by no means capable of immediate action in
combating even minor spills. With the exception of some harsh words, there was no leadership or
direct action on the part of the Central Government either. It is clear that oil companies with facilities
in the Netherlands Antilles must work according to the highest safety standards available to them. In
the event of an oil spill, all materials to neutralize the effects of the accident should be on site and fully
functional. In the recent case of Statia Terminal, critical material had to be flown in which resulted in
major delays. Companies should not be the only ones held accountable for remiss safety practices.
Island and national government officials should regularly inspect these oil facilities and should close
down the operations if environmental safety standards are not up-to-date.

It is the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that a national Oil Contingency Plan,
comprised of island-specific actions, responsibilities, infrastructure and legislation, be developed and
made operational without further delay. In addition, it is the recommendation of this Recovery Action
Plan that Venezuela and the Netherlands Antilles finalize their negotiation of a bilateral treaty for
combating oil spills. This kind of international cooperation is essential. It is noteworthy in this regard
that the Netherlands and Venezuela are both party to the Cartagena Convention, with its Protocol
Concerning Cooperation in Combating Oil Spills in the Wider Caribbean Region (see section 4.32).
Article 3 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, particu-
larly the coastal areas of the islands of the region, from oil spill incidents; [and]

(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 relevant legisla-
tion, the preparation of contingency plans, the identification and development of the
capability to respond to an oil spill incident and the designation of an authority
responsible for the implementation of this protocol."

4.146 Agricultural runoff and sewage

Most of the islands of the Netherlands Antilles do not have extensive agriculture or agricultural
discharges, but the run-off of rainwater occurs on all islands during the rainy seasons. Because of
increasing coastal development, the siltation of nearby fringing reefs is quite possible. Siltation can
smother and kill coral reefs and sea grass beds, which are essential habitats for sea turtles, commercial
fisheries, and tourism. We recommend that vulnerable marine areas be closely monitored for affects

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due to runoff On Saba and Bonaire this may be implemented under the auspices of the Underwater
Parks; on the other islands it should be a priority for island governments. Mitigating measures, includ-
ing erecting barriers against runoff during coastal construction, should be a prerequisite for obtaining
coastal construction permits.

In the absence of an adequate sewer system to collect sewage for treatment, untreated waste,
especially around urban areas, often disappears directly into the sea (section 3.1). In other areas the
sewage is collected, but is then pumped through a pipeline into deeper water, untreated. At the present
time the offshore pipeline in Curacao is broken, and sewage is routinely spilled near shore. It is the
recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that all raw human sewage be centrally treated in large
capacity treatment plants. Urban coastal development near ecologically sensitive inner bays, especially
Spaanse water (Curacao) and Simpson Bay/Simpson Bay Lagoon (St. Maarten), should be required to
incorporate adequate sewage collection and treatment infrastructure. Finally, sea-based sewage dispo-
sal, such as when international sailing vessels dump their sewage in the bays, should be strictly

4.147 Anchoring

Indiscriminate anchoring on coral is a severe and growing problem in some parts of the
Netherlands Antilles, as it is in the Wider Caribbean as a whole. Since there are now inexpensive and
effective mooring systems available (e.g., Halas, 1985), there is little reason to continue to allow
anchoring in reef or sea grass habitats. Anchoring by fishermen and recreational vessels is done both in
the shallow and drop-off areas in the Netherlands Antilles. In the leeward islands the sea bottom grad-
ually slopes to a depth of 10 m ( 25 feet), then drops off at a 450 angle to a depth of around 60 m (
150 feet). At this depth it plateaus before dropping off again to depths of more than 600 m. This relief
is observed 50-150 m from shore and on this profile a well-developed fringing coral reef has devel-
oped. The highest abundance of corals is on the edge of the slope, locally referred to as "the blue edge"
because the color of the water changes from light blue (shallow area) to dark blue beyond the drop-off.

In the Underwater Parks boaters are encouraged to use either the permanent moorings or sandy
areas; in Bonaire this is mandatory for boats longer than 12 feet. In Curacao there is no mooring
legislation whatsoever. Nevertheless, an additional 30 mooring buoys have recently been placed along
the coast between the boundary of the Curacao Underwater Park and West Punt in order to protect the
reefs there. This mooring expansion was paid for by the island Government of Curacao and highlights
the government's continuing interest in both protecting coral reefs and stimulating diving tourism.
However, local fishermen do not, for the most part, use these moorings. Serious thought should be
given to implementing island legislation requiring the use of fixed moorings in designated areas, par-
ticularly in Park and other notable areas.

St. Eustatius has a variety of sea bottoms but anchoring appears to be a problem only in the
vicinity of Oranjestad, where tankers throw huge anchors on top of galleons sunk during the last
century, and in deeper water, where anchoring also damages live corals. In front of Oranjestad there is
a shallow sandy area with intermittent algal cover that has many historic remains of old ships. The
ships are overgrown with corals and attract a wide variety of fish. Going further offshore, the sandy

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bottom changes gradually to patchy coral structures, sometimes with small ledges. Healthy, well-
developed coral reef ridges on the southwest coast are suitable for controlled dive recreation.
Snorkeling, led by a local dive shop, is already being done in shallow coral patches in Jenkins and Kay
bays. At the Atlantic side, some coral development on steep slopes near shore gives way to a sandy
bottom. It is the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that specific and mandatory anchoring
locations be designated in St. Eustatius, and that the placing of special anchor buoys for large tankers
be considered.

St. Maarten has well sheltered shallow sandy bays with sea grass ("turtle grass") beds (section
4.111). Many recreational sailboats anchor in these bays. According to Van't Hof (1989), "anchoring
may be responsible for uprooting of the sea grasses, and this may explain the sandy craters exposing
the root system of the sea grasses that were found in some areas." Unfortunately, no attempt has been
made to systematically monitor the extent of damage by anchors. This should be a priority in the near
future. Saba is a steep volcano rising from the seabed thousands of feet below. As a result, only in the
neighborhood of Fort Bay, Ladder Bay, and Wells Bay is there shallow bottom to anchor. At Fort Bay
there are some feeding grounds for sea turtles, but the influence of the stone crusher (section 4.111) is
currently much more severe than the anchoring of sailboats. New legislation has prohibited anchoring
around the island except in specially appointed anchor zones and an expanded mooring buoy system is
now in place around the whole island. After a few warnings by Park personnel, who patrol daily,
compliance by yachts and other vessels is high. Credit is also due to a high-profile public awareness
campaign. Every new boat or yacht coming through the harbor master's or marine park authority's
office is given a brochure explaining the rules and regulations of the Saba Marine Park. Information is
also sent to yacht guidebooks and related publications.

4.2 Manage and Protect all Life Stages

4.21 Review existing local laws and regulations

On a national level, the Netherlands Antilles government has passed a new fisheries law in its
territorial waters (at the moment this is 12 miles, but a request has been made to the Kingdom's
government for the establishment of a 200-mile Exclusive Fisheries Zone). As part of this new law,
fishing on all sea turtles and marine mammals in territorial waters (in due time, to 200 miles) by
commercial ships, defined as larger than 12 m and/or storage capacity larger than six bruto registered
tons (GMT), is prohibited. Smaller fishing vessels must be handled by local (=island) legislation as
these boats fish only near the coast. Unfortunately, only Bonaire has passed legislation that completely
protects sea turtles in its coastal waters.

All island laws need to be reviewed and updated. In most cases there is no specific turtle
protection legislation; thus, new legislation is urgent. Relevant legislation consists of the following:

Curacao: Island Reef Management Ordinance of 1976.
Prohibits spear fishing and the breaking and removal of live coral.
No special protection of turtles, nests or eggs. STINAPA proposed
in 1989 to the island government, by means of a concept decree un-

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

der article 3 of the Reef Management Ordinance 1976, to grant pro-
tection to all sea turtles, spiny lobster, and queen conch. The gov-
ernment has not yet responded.

Bonaire: Marine Environment Ordinance (A.B. 1984, no. 21), as amended
27 June 1991. Article 14 reads:

1. It is prohibited to disturb or destroy sea turtle nests or to remove
eggs from the nests; it is prohibited to be in possession of, to
have for sale or delivery, to offer for sale, to sell, to buy, to trade
in, to donate or to transport eggs of sea turtles.

2. It is prohibited to kill, catch or be in possession of sea turtles.

3. It is prohibited to offer for sale, sell, buy, trade in, donate, or
offer as a dish in any way in public, sea turtles, sea turtle meat or
other products of sea turtles.

4. sSea turtles are understood to comprise the following species:
Chelonia mydas (Tortuga blanku), Caretta caretta (Kawama),
Eretmochelys imbricata (Karet), Dermochelys coriacea (Drikil),
and Lepidochelys kempi.

5. The prohibition as meant in para. 2 can be suspended for periods
of up to 1 year (renewable as necessary), after a hearing by the
Marine Environment Commission and provided that the condi-
tion of the sea turtle population permits such a measure. This ac-
tion would be administered through an Executive Council decree,
which would provide regulations for the catch of sea turtles, the
species, the season, quota, and minimum and maximum sizes.

The penalty for violation of the new law in Bonaire is a maximum of
NAf. 5000 and/or one month in jail; relevant equipment (spear gun,
car, boat) can be confiscated.

St. Maarten: No regulations.

St. Eustatius: No regulations.

Saba: Marine Environmental Ordinance of 1987.
Catching of sea turtles by foreigners is prohibited; island residents
are allowed to catch two turtles per person each year. There are no
size restrictions; however, no female turtles are to be caught from
April to November and all turtles caught have to be reported to the
Saba Marine Park Authorities. It is prohibited to disturb nests or re-

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move eggs. The reporting system seems to work reasonably well; in
any event, very few turtles are landed. Penalties for violation are a
maximum of NAf. 5000 and/or one month in jail; equipment (spear
gun, car, boat) can be confiscated. There have been no convictions.

4.22 Evaluate the effectiveness of law enforcement

Law enforcement is poor to nil. Regular enforcement agencies, such as the police, are over-
burdened and under-staffed. The issue is complicated by the fact that environmental legislation is
sometimes technical and can be too difficult for agencies trained only in general law-and-order to
understand and/or to act upon. It is the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that island
governments install special law enforcement authorities for nature conservation in general. Curacao,
Bonaire, and St. Maarten should have at least five environmental law officers each; St. Eustatius and
Saba perhaps one or two each. Environmental law officers would be responsible for fisheries and
wildlife law, mineral extraction, pollution and air/water quality, etc. Suitable training is essential, and
should logically be provided and integrated at the national level (see also section 4.24). Finally, a
larger (national) capacity to patrol and monitor marine areas is also needed.

4.23 Propose new regulations where needed

Regulations that fully protect sea turtles need to be adopted throughout the Netherlands
Antilles, ideally in the context of holistic marine conservation legislation. A great advancement in this
regard was made in Bonaire when, in June 1991, the Island Government of Bonaire incorporated
unconditional protection to sea turtles under the amended Marine Environment Ordinance (see section
4.21). It is the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the other islands quickly follow the
example set by Bonaire in passing such legislation, especially since sea turtles are now fully protected
by an international treaty to which The Netherlands is a Party (section 4.32). It is noteworthy that
simply proposing new regulations is not enough. Once legislation has been submitted, follow-through
by concerned citizens is necessary. By repeatedly asking about the status of proposed legislation, and
stressing its importance, pressure can be put on the acceptance of new and better legislation by the
island governments. In the case of Curacao, an amendment to grant protection to sea turtles was
submitted by STINAPA in 1989, but government action has yet to be taken (section 4.21).

4.231 Eggs

The collection of sea turtle eggs is prohibited by law on Bonaire and Saba. Sea turtle eggs
should be fully protected on all islands in the Netherlands Antilles. Nesting is relatively rare on our
islands and we cannot afford to loose any of the annual breeding effort to human consumption.

4.232 Immature turtles

It is the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that island legislation be designed and
implemented to protect all size classes of sea turtle at all times, on land and at sea. It is widely known
that no one in the Netherlands Antilles can claim to depend on the capture or sale of sea turtles for their

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

livelihood. All indications are that stocks are depleted and the time has come for protection. If harvest
is deemed essential and unavoidable during some interim period, only immature turtles under a certain
size should be caught. Further, the harvest should be confined to loggerheads and green turtles. In
both cases, an upper size limit of 60 cm (24 inches) curved shell length should be mandated.
Hawksbills, olive ridleys, and leatherbacks should be completely protected; the first two because of
their very endangered status in the Wider Caribbean (Groombridge, 1982; Groombridge and
Luxmoore, 1989) and the leatherback because only gravid females are likely to be encountered.

It is emphasized that any harvest of juvenile turtles should be considered on a brief interim
basis only, and only until such harvest can be phased out completely. Targeting the smaller size classes
will not promote stock recovery, but it will be an improvement over the current situation (except on
Bonaire, where full protection exists and the consideration of a continued harvest is not relevant) and it
will provide the necessary protection to breeding adults. The spear-fishing of sea turtles should be
prohibited in all areas and at all times.

4.233 Nesting females

Nesting females are protected by law on Bonaire (all times) and on Saba (April through
November). Since adult females must come ashore for the purpose of egg-laying and are very
vulnerable to capture during this time, it is the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that (1)
full protection to nesting females be extended year-around on Saba and (2) Curacao, St. Maarten, and
St. Eustatius should adopt measures to protect unconditionally all sea turtles encountered on land.
There is no doubt among sea turtle biologists that one of the most important components of any sea
turtle population are females of breeding age (e.g., Crouse et al., 1987; Frazer, 1989). Mature sea
turtles represent decades of selective survival and are very difficult for a population, especially a
declining population, to replace. Furthermore, some tagged females in long studied populations, such
as in Georgia (USA), have returned to the same nesting beach to lay their eggs for more than two
decades (Jim Richardson, University of Georgia, pers. comm., 1991). To continue harvesting the last
of our breeding turtles is to invite the extinction of remaining populations.

4.234 Unprotected species

It is the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that all species of sea turtle, including
the rare ones, be protected by law. This will preclude enforcement complications that arise when all
species are not afforded equal protection. It is also the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan
that the new legislation protecting sea turtles in Bonaire be amended to include the olive ridley
(Lepidochelys olivacea), which is declining dramatically at its primary Western Atlantic nesting
grounds in Suriname (see section 2.6) and should be fully protected throughout the Wider Caribbean.

4.24 Augment existing law enforcement efforts

Until a proper environmental law enforcement authority is provided by the government, this
task may logically be given to STINAPA, which is already doing these kinds of enforcement within
the marine parks. It is necessary, therefore, to initiate a dialogue with the government to establish an

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

enforcement unit within an organization like STINAPA and funded by the government. Furthermore,
other local non-government environmental protection organizations should be considered for enforce-
ment capabilities. As this Recovery Action Plan goes to press, a new island-wide clean-up campaign
has been announced in Curacao, as has the installment of a special environmental police unit. It is
possible that this unit could eventually patrol beaches and enforce legislation to protect sea turtles and
their eggs. Unfortunately, Curacao has yet to enact any such legislation (section 4.21)

In the interim before all islands have established an environmental police unit, it is the
recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that a national workshop be convened for law-and-order
police to familiarize them with environmental regulations. A good example of a successful initiative
of this kind can be found in the British Virgin Islands, where in February 1986 a workshop entitled
"Environmental Law Enforcement" was sponsored by the Eastern Caribbean Natural Areas Manage-
ment Program (ECNAMP) on Tortola. All government Ministries were involved. The purpose of the
workshop was to bring conservation law to the attention of all parties, and in particular the law
enforcement officers. In November 1991, a Surveillance Workshop sponsored by the OECS was
convened in Tortola to inform enforcement personnel from Customs, Police, Immigration, and the
National Parks Trust about existing environmental legislation and the necessity for vigilant enforce-
ment. Both workshops were well-attended (Julie Overing, BVI Conservation and Fisheries Depart-
ment, pers. comm., 1992).

4.25 Make fines commensurate with product value

Very high fines should be levied for all violations of environmental or natural resource laws.
This is the only way that unscrupulous persons will obey such legislation. If chances are good that
offenders will be caught, that they will lose their gear and be liable for heavy fines, they may think
twice before acting against the law. The current maximum fine of NAf 5,000 in Bonaire and Saba is
adequate, since the average profit from a sea turtle's meat is estimated at NAf 400. There are no fines
or other penalties in place elsewhere in the Netherlands Antilles, since the other islands lack sea turtle
conservation legislation (section 4.21). To my knowledge, no one has ever been arrested or fined for
violating sea turtle conservation laws.

4.26 Investigate alternative livelihoods for turtle fishermen

In the Netherlands Antilles, nobody depends exclusively upon the meat or products of sea
turtles for their livelihood or for a major portion of their income. Thus, it seems reasonable that alter-
native livelihoods need not be considered at this time.

4.27 Determine incidental catch and promote the use of TEDs

Trawling is not done in the coastal waters of the islands because of the reef structure on most of
the bottom. Thus, turtle excluder devices (TEDs), designed to let captured sea turtles escape from
trawls, are not needed. However, large pelagic fish purse seiners and long-liners are present in our
territorial waters and it is recommended that the Netherlands Antilles government initiate a vigorous
program to control the activities of these foreign ships and to assess whether they are catching sea
turtles during the course of their operations. The capture of leatherback turtles by long-lines has been

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

documented in the northeastern Caribbean (Cambers and Lima, 1990; Tobias, 1991), the southeastern
U. S. (Witzell, 1984), and in the Gulf of Mexico (Hildebrand, 1987).

At the present time, as a result of the new national fisheries law (section 4.21), all vessels larger
than 12 m or six GMT are required to have a permit which states that sea turtles and marine mammals
cannot be captured, nor can marine mammals be used as fish bait. This law should be enforced to the
maximum extent allowable by law.

4.28 Supplement reduced populations using management techniques

The situation in the Netherlands Antilles with respect to sea turtle management is a very
difficult one, due to the fact that sea turtles are not presently known to nest anywhere on our islands in
any concentration. The immediate action in management is to work on better legislation and enforce-
ment, in particular to protect beach and coral reef environments and to protect sea turtles both at sea
and during egg-laying (section 4.23). In the longer term it is necessary that we adequately survey
potential nesting and foraging areas in order to identify habitats important to our remaining populations
(section 4.11). No expensive and/or heavily manipulative strategies, such as captive raising or
"head-starting", are recommended since there are no data to show that such strategies benefit wild pop-
ulations of sea turtles. Simpler technologies, such as moving eggs to protect them from dogs, traffic,
poachers, or erosion, should be considered if necessary. The Conservation Manual from the Western
Atlantic Turtle Symposium (Pritchard et al., 1983) includes guidance on this account, and WIDECAST
is able to provide local training workshops on management techniques.

4.29 Monitor stocks

4.291 Nests

With relatively few exceptions (see Figures 2-6), sea turtle nesting is no longer reported in the
Netherlands Antilles. It is partially because densities are so low that systematic nesting beach surveys
have not been initiated. Consequently, the precise distribution and abundance of nesting activity has
not been quantified. We are certain only that levels of nesting are much reduced from what they were
a century ago. Coincident with working to improve legislation (sections 4.23, 4.3) and develop public
awareness and education programs (sections 4.124, 4.4), it is necessary that the Netherlands Antilles
strongly support at the government and/or non-government level a systematic survey of potential
nesting habitat (see also section 4.11). This should be done daily in the early morning hours during the
nesting season (April-November, inclusive) by personnel, ideally persons living near the beach, who
have been trained to identify and to document evidence of sea turtle nesting.

STINAPA-affiliated offices on each island are in a good position to coordinate and implement
nest surveys. The WIDECAST regional Sea Turtle Recovery Team can assist in the development of
materials and seminars on basic beach monitoring techniques and sea turtle species identification.
Accurate information about the distribution and abundance of sea turtle nesting would allow us to
make more informed decisions regarding the conservation of remaining populations, and to monitor
the numbers of animals breeding under our jurisdiction.

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4.292 Hatchlings

Hatchling emergence is rarely reported. The most recent report was that of a loggerhead hatch
on Curacao in late June 1991 (section 2.1). The extent to which nesting occurs is not fully known, nor
has the level of egg poaching been quantified. Nest monitoring efforts (recommended in section
4.291) should logically incorporate an assessment of hatching success. WIDECAST can provide
materials upon request that will assist interested persons in the identification of sea turtle hatchlings,
and their proper release should they be found disoriented or stranded.

4.293 Immature and adult turtles

Information about sea turtles from fishermen and other parties should be updated regularly.
This is important to see any changes in fishing effort (or techniques) by fishermen, and to glean some
information about the relative occurrence of these animals in our waters. Estimates of adult females
nesting on our beaches can be made from beach surveys designed to measure such activity; estimates
of juveniles and adults at sea are much more difficult to obtain. At this time we do not consider the
precise quantification of juvenile turtles residing in our waters to be a priority. This will involve many
years of systematic effort and our limited resources may better be spent in protecting habitat and
strengthening and enforcing conservation legislation.

4.3 Encourage and Support International Cooperation

A Committee, installed by the Minister of Transportation and Communication and the Minister
of Public Health and Environment (Landsbesluit 22 April 1991, no. 33; no. 5196/ JAZ), is currently
working to improve national implementation of important international treaties on shipping, especially
focusing on the protection of the marine environment (e.g., MARPOL, Cartagena Convention).
Another judicial commission is working on the national implementation of CITES (section 4.31).
Several international treaties regarding pollution of the marine environment by ships have been signed
by the Kingdom of Holland, and therefore are also applicable to the Netherlands Antilles. However, as
long as enabling legislation is not passed on a national level, these treaties cannot come into force.
Many of these treaties are at the moment processed by the Ministerial Committee. We recommend
that this process be expedited and brought to fruition as soon as possible. The most important treaties
in this regard are MARPOL 1973 (with Protocol 1978) and the London Dumping Convention 1972.

The MARPOL Convention 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 minimize operational
discharges. The five Annexes are for oil, chemicals in bulk, packaged chemicals, liquid sewage, and
garbage. Regarding Annex 5 (garbage), it has been proposed to the International Maritime Organiza-
tion (IMO) by the nations of the Caribbean that the Caribbean Region be declared a "Special Area".
This proposal has been accepted, but will only come into force when the nations have put in place the
facilities to receive garbage on shore. Although this will not necessarily change the environmental
problem of garbage in the Caribbean (only shift it from the sea to the land), it will certainly be a posi-
tive step for sea turtles and other marine life. Since the Netherlands Antilles has not yet brought this

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

Convention into force, we can at this time guard only against oil pollution under the existing OILPOL
Convention (1954, 1962, 1969, 1971) with its national equivalent (PB 1959, no. 72; PB 1976, no. 27).

The London Dumping Convention regulates the intentional dumping of garbage and sewage at
sea. It consists of a "black list" of substances that are forbidden to be disposed of at sea, and a "gray
list" of substances that can only be dumped with a permit. The status of this Convention in the Nether-
lands Antilles is the same as with many others. It will only come into force when national legislation
has been put into place. In 1986 the national equivalent of the London Dumping Convention was
officially published but, due to text mistakes and other problems, it never came into force. To date,
these mistakes have not been corrected. There are also other international agreements which are
important with regard to the protection of the marine environment and which should be implemented
by the Netherlands Antilles. These include the Intervention Convention (1969, and Protocol of 1973),
the COLREG Convention (1972) to prevent marine collisions, and the recently developed Convention
on Oil Preparedness, Response and Cooperation (1990).

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 or 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 accession of Uganda in July 1991, the Convention has
112 Parties (WWF, 1992).

The Netherlands ratified CITES on 18 July 1984 (Brautigam, 1987), but the Netherlands
Antilles has not implemented the Convention because national legislation is at present inadequate.
However, as a result of negative publicity in the international press on trade in protected and endan-
gered species by the Netherlands Antilles, a Commission has recently been formed and is working to
improve local legislation. The implementation of CITES now appears imminent. For the time being,
an interim national decree under the Ordinance on Import and Export (PB 1968 no. 42) will come into
force in 1992 that will prohibit all import and export of species listed under Annex I of CITES. It is
the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that the Netherlands Antilles implement enabling
legislation for the enforcement of CITES at the earliest possible opportunity.

4.32 Regional treaties

It is recognized that while the majority of our energy should be funneled towards much needed
local protection and management of sea turtles and their habitats, there should also be coordinated
actions at the field enforcement level with nations with whom turtle stocks are shared. The UNEP

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean
Region (Cartagena Convention) and its Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife
(SPAW) serve as important tools for the regional conservation of sea turtles. In March 1983, a
Conference of Plenipotentiaries met in Cartagena, Colombia to adopt this Convention. Representatives
from 16 States participated, including the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 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 endan-
gered species, in the Convention area." The Netherlands ratified the Convention on 16 April 1984.

In January 1990, 16 nations, including the Kingdom of the Netherlands, attended a Conference
of Plenipotentiaries in Kingston, Jamaica that adopted the SPAW Protocol. At a subsequent meeting
in Martinique (November 1990), Jeffrey Sybesma represented the Netherlands Antilles as an invited
participant at the First Meeting of the Ad Hoc Group of Experts for the Development of Annexes to the
SPAW Protocol. The Group voted by consensus to recommend all six species of Caribbean sea turtles
be included in Annex II, which provides full protection from all domestic harvest. This recommend-
dation was later adopted at the Meeting of Plenipotentiaries in June 1991 in Kingston, Jamaica. The
decision to include sea turtles in Annex II is a significant victory for sea turtle conservation. This
single decision has the potential for prohibiting the take of sea turtles throughout the Caribbean region,
at least among the Contracting Parties to the Cartagena Convention. 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.

The Netherlands has played an important role in the adoption of the new SPAW Protocol and
its Annexes, having attended both the January 1990 and June 1991 Conferences. The Netherlands
ratified the SPAW Protocol in 1990 (Trb. 1990, 115) and the Annexes on 2 March 1992.

4.33 Subregional sea turtle management

We recognize that the highly migratory nature of sea turtles prevents us from discussing sea
turtles that belong solely to the Netherlands Antilles. With respect to green turtles foraging in our
waters, for example, we may share these stocks with the nations of Central and/or South America (in
the case of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) or, in the case of our Windward Islands, with neighboring
West Indian nations. Further, the numbers of foraging turtles, and recruitment rates into our popula-
tions, may depend largely on the status of distant nesting colonies. None of "our" populations can be
conserved if we do not take at least a bi-national, and preferably an international, approach to their
protection. This should be done for the Leeward Islands with Aruba, Colombia and Venezuela. For the
indward Islands, neighboring Anguilla, St. Barthelemy, and St. Kitts and Nevis should be approached
and encouraged to support cooperative programs. A Consultation Mechanism between the Nether-
ands, the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, and Venezuela has now been established where topics like these

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

can be discussed and agreed upon. Recent topics of discussion have included CITES, oil spill readi-
ess, and the protection of the marine environment.

4.4 Develop Public Education

This, concurrent with legislation and enforcement, may be the most effective way to reverse the
long-term downward trend of the sea turtles. The development of educational materials on such
specific topics as sea turtle conservation and the stewardship of habitats important to sea turtles must
be incorporated into the programs being developed by the educational officer of STINAPA, as well as
into the educational efforts of other island organizations. In STINAPA publications (STINAPA series
and STINAPA documentation series), the importance of nature and its management, including sea
turtle conservation, has been brought to the attention of the public for many years. To commemorate
its 25th anniversary, STINAPA published a poster with educational material and the need for turtle
conservation was featured. Also, the managers of the different marine parks have the authority to
develop specific educational tools for certain aspects they feel need special attention.

The Environmental Service of Curacao has a newsletter called "Imagen Ambiental" that
reaches governmental desks and can be used to educate government personnel. In February 1985, a
lengthy and very informative article was published in Imagen Ambiental on the subject of sea turtles
(Van Buurt, 1985). In addition, Defensa Ambiental/Amigu di Tera publishes a newsletter for their
members which includes important environmental information and is read by local citizens. Informa-
ion regarding sea turtles should be highlighted in these publications.

WIDECAST has recently designed and distributed a very useful, full-color mini-poster which
features photographs of the six species of Caribbean sea turtles and a simple explanation of how to
distinguish one species from another.

The National Sea Turtle Project Coordinator is also a key person in the development of educa-
ional material. By means of the sea turtle network, he can distribute material, such as the WIDECAST
poster, throughout the Netherlands Antilles.

4.41 Residents

Local residents of the different islands should be taught the need for natural resource conserva-
tion, including endangered sea turtle protection, in school by means of their biology curricula. To
stimulate the teachers to do so, STINAPA has a full-time teacher to develop such programs (section
4.124). Other initiatives from the private sector to establish educational programs for schools should
be advocated and supported by STINAPA, as well as by other knowledgeable local organizations.
Gerard Van Buurt has noted his interest in updating a recent Imagen Ambiental article on sea turtles
(Van Buurt, 1985), translating it into Papiamentu, and providing the article to local schools. Many
residents commonly eat turtle meat and need to be progressively weaned of this practice by means of a
thoughtful awareness program, especially in Bonaire now that sea turtles are completely protected
there (section 4.21).

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

The post-school age public should be addressed regularly by the different organizations that
manage and protect sea turtles through the local media. The effort should be done, for example, by
STINAPA but also through the Environmental Service or local private organizations. In addition to
the more traditional media (radio, newspapers, television), fixed information would be very useful in
several well-visited places. For example, Lac Bay, Bonaire, is a protected area and legislation is being
considered which will further restrict aquatic activities there. A large and colorful wooden sign-board
on the shore of the bay near the snack bars would be an effective way to explain to residents and
visitors alike the fragile and complex ecosystem of the bay, and could include information on the many
turtles which forage there.

4.42 Fishermen

This is a high priority on every island, and requires a diversified approach. Fishermen on all of
our islands should be made aware of fines and other penalties due for violating turtle protection laws.
It will also be essential to explain why these protection laws have been necessary. Every avenue
should be explored which will assist local fishermen in their efforts to make a living off native fish
stocks. On those islands where there is a government fisheries department (LVV Curacao, LVV
Bonaire), it should be the duty of the fisheries officers to inform all fishermen regarding new and
existing laws protecting sea turtles. Environmental organizations such as STINAPA, the Conservation
Foundation, Friends of the Earth, WIDECAST, Greenpeace, etc. could participate in the educational
and awareness effort by distributing informative leaflets and brochures in the fishermen's communities,
sponsoring appropriate local events, and working with the public news media.

4.43 Tourists

Tourists should be well informed of laws protecting sea turtles. St. Maarten in particular, with
its potential for turtle nesting and its boom in tourist development, should give strong attention to the
effect of tourism on sea turtle conservation and management and should develop programs to inform
tourists. Such education is also important on islands where tourists may be purchasing sea turtle
products. Educational materials for tourists should be placed in airports, tourist offices, hotels, dive
shops, etc. STINAPA will be working with WIDECAST to design brochures and other informative
materials. In addition, a large airport display, perhaps designed to rotate among the island airports,
could highlight the plight of turtles in the region, and in the Netherlands Antilles specifically. Visitors
would be encouraged to avoid consuming turtle meat and purchasing turtle shells or ornaments.
Importantly, an attempt to bring such items home is illegal for tourists from the United States and
many other countries where endangered species products are confiscated by border officials (see
CITES discussion, section 4.31).

4.44 Non-consumptive uses of sea turtles to generate revenue

It would be useful if income could be generated from the protection of sea turtles, rather than
from killing them. Some hotels in the Caribbean (e.g., Jumby Bay, Antigua) sponsor and support sea
turtle research and conservation projects on their beaches. At Jumby Bay, accommodations are
provided to trained biologists during the breeding season and hotel guests are professionally guided to
the beach to quietly witness the egg-laying. This has been extremely popular with the guests and pro-

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motes an awareness within the hotel regarding beach cleanliness, minimizing the disorientation of
hatchlings due to artificial lighting, etc. If beaches are found in the Netherlands Antilles where sea tur-
tles still nest in appreciable numbers, it may be useful to organize expeditions to allow the public to
view this activity in a controlled and responsible manner. Of course if these activities are not properly
controlled, the turtles may be driven away by the disturbance. If the beach is protected as a Park, it is
recommended that revenue generated from expeditions be recycled into Park conservation or inter-
pretive programs.

Revenue is needed in support of sea turtle conservation throughout the Netherlands Antilles,
and there have been some very innovative and successful fund-raising campaigns that should be
highlighted here. In 1990, Mr. Albert de Soet, a resident of Holland, spent a holiday in Bonaire and
fell in love with the natural beauty of the island. One day he encountered a mature green sea turtle tied
up and lying on its back awaiting slaughter on the shores of Lac Bay. He was so moved by the
helplessness of the creature that he purchased the turtle from the fisherman who had caught it and took
the turtle to the other side of the island to release it. Mr. de Soet could not forget this incident, and he
decided to try and do something for the turtles. With this goal in mind, he established the Bonaire Tur-
tle Club with the objective of raising funds for the protection of the sea turtles of Bonaire. He also
commissioned a specially designed sea turtle necktie that now sells for Nfl. 100 (ca. US$ 50) as a
collector's item in Holland.

In addition to the sale of neckties, a major public relations campaign in Dutch magazines and
newspapers has attracted a lot of attention for the Club. In February 1992, a NAf. 1000 (US$ 555) per
plate fund-raising dinner was organized in Bonaire to raise money for local sea turtle protection efforts.
Wealthy persons from Holland and the Netherlands Antilles were invited to attend, and speakers,
including myself as the Executive Coordinator of the WIDECAST project in the Netherlands Antilles,
and Roberto Hensen, Bonaire island WIDECAST coordinator, were also invited. The Prime Minister
of the Netherlands and his wife (who is the patron of the Turtle Club) were in attendance. An amount
of NAf. 25,000 (US$ 14,000) was raised and donated to the local representative of the Turtle Club,
who is also a member of the Netherlands Antilles WIDECAST network. The money will be used to
promote the conservation of sea turtles, with highest priority put on the design and distribution of a
brochure and/or poster depicting the biology and status of local sea turtle species.

We highly commend the efforts of Mr. de Soet, a concerned citizen who saw a need and
decided to get involved in a very real way in order to make a difference to conservation in the
Netherlands Antilles. We hope that his actions, and those of the Bonaire Turtle Club, will encourage
others to become involved, as well.

4.5 Increase Information Exchange

4.51 Marine Turtle Newsletter

The Marine Turtle Newsletter (MTN) is presently received by CARMABI (Curacao), the
Curacao Underwater Park office, and the Fisheries Section (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries,
Curacao). Other interested persons are encouraged to receive the Newsletter, which is distributed free
of charge and enables readers around the world to keep abreast of sea turtle research and conservation

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

efforts. It is the recommendation of this Recovery Action Plan that all STINAPA and Marine Park
offices, as well as all relevant government agencies, receive the Newsletter. The MTN is published
quarterly in English and Spanish. To subscribe, write to: Editors, Marine Turtle Newsletter, Hubbs-
Sea World Research Institute, 1700 South Shores Road, San Diego, California 92109 USA.

4.52 Western Atlantic Turtle Symposium (WATS)

The Netherlands Antilles was not represented at the WATS I symposium in Costa Rica,
although data were compiled by Van Buurt (1984) and submitted. At the WATS II symposium in
Puerto Rico, Jeffrey Sybesma was the Netherlands Antilles National Representative. He collected all
available data on sea turtles in the Netherlands Antilles and presented these in a national report
(Sybesma, 1987). The Netherlands Antilles hopes to continue to be involved in this valuable regional
database. The WATS Manual for Sea Turtle Research and Conservation Techniques (Pritchard et al.,
1983) provides instruction and background for many sea turtle survey and management methods. It
will be followed to the fullest extent when sea turtle conservation programs are implemented.


The Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Recovery Team and Conservation Network, known as
WIDECAST, consists of a regional team of sea turtle experts that works closely with in-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 the Netherlands Antilles, in the Wider
Caribbean. Each STRAP is tailored specifically to local circumstances and provides the following

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
4. The present and historical role of sea turtles in local culture and economy.
5. Local, national, and multilateral 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 programs. Specifically, to develop and support a technical understanding of sea
turtle biology and management among local individuals and organizations by:

1. Implementing WIDECAST through resident Country Coordinators.

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

2. Utilizing 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
biology and management.
5. Assisting governments and non-government groups with the implement-
tation of effective management and conservation programs for sea turtles.

Beyond supporting the local and national efforts of governments and non-governmental organi-
zations, WIDECAST works to integrate these efforts into a collective regional response to a common
problem, the disappearance of sea turtles. WIDECAST is supported by the Caribbean Trust Fund of
the UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme, as well as by government and non-government agen-
cies and groups. Government and non-government personnel, biologists, fishermen, educators, devel-
opers, and other interested persons are encouraged to join in WIDECAST's efforts. Locally,
WIDECAST is implemented through the Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtle Project network. This
volunteer network is the most cost-effective way to gather consistent information about sea turtles,
whilst at the same time promoting public awareness and support for conservation and law enforcement.
For further information, please contact Jeffrey Sybesma, Sea Turtle Project Coordinator, c/o
CARMABI, P. O. Box 2090, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles.

4.54 IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group

The Marine Turtle Specialist Group (Dr. Karen Bjomdal, Chair) is responsible for tracking the
status of sea turtle populations around the world for the World Resources Union (IUCN) 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 Bjorndal, 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 sea turtle conservation projects, partici-
pants should be educated concerning basic sea turtle ecology. This training would logically include the
identification of sea turtle species, whether the evidence available was a live turtle, a hatchling, an egg,
or a crawl on the beach. Additional detail, provided as needed, could include proper methods to
conduct beach patrols, move eggs, survey by air, etc. Informal local workshops can be arranged by
WIDECAST upon request. More formal field instruction is available from the Caribbean Conservation
Corporation (P. O. Box 2866, Gainesville, Florida 32602) at their annual sea turtle training course in
Tortuguero, Costa Rica.

For the most part, training needed 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

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

recommended that STINAPA organizations on the various islands provide the necessary background to
Park personnel, marine scientists, SCUBA divers, coastal developers, and other 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. Program mana-
gers 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

Information about sea turtle research, conservation, and progress in the Netherlands Antilles is
disseminated by the National Sea Turtle Research Coordinator via the various island focal points. It is
then the responsibility of island-network members to further exchange this information with specific
groups interested in sea turtle conservation. Public articles, such as that recently written for "Imagen
Ambiental" (Van Buurt, 1985), are useful to keep the government and the public informed and are
encouraged. Only to the extent that we all remain alert and informed and agree to work together can
we hope to be successful in retaining our sea turtles long into the twenty-first century. The completion
of this Recovery Action Plan is a crucial first step in the exchange of information amongst concerned
groups and individuals. We intend to share and use the information included herein to our maximum
advantage in promoting the recovery of sea turtles in the Netherlands Antilles.

4.6 Implement Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtle Project

4.61 Rationale

Sea turtles are declining in the Wider Caribbean region. Five species of Caribbean-occurring
sea turtles are recognized as Endangered and a sixth, the loggerhead sea turtle, as Vulnerable by the
IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre. A recent IUCN/CITES report on the global status of the
hawksbill sea turtle states that about half the world's nesting populations are known or suspected to be
in decline; in particular, "the entire Western Atlantic-Caribbean region is greatly depleted"
(Groombridge and Luxmoore, 1989). Turtles are harvested throughout the Caribbean for food and are
also killed for their shells, oil and skins. In addition, they are accidentally captured in active or
abandoned fishing gear, resulting in death to tens of thousands each year. Oil spills, chemical waste
and persistent plastic debris, as well as ongoing degradation of important nesting beaches and feeding
grounds, also threaten remaining populations in our region.

Persistent over-exploitation, especially of adult females on the nesting beach, and the wide-
spread harvest of eggs are largely responsible for the endangered status of Caribbean sea turtles. This
is certainly the situation in the Netherlands Antilles (see section 1.2). The previous chapters of this
Recovery Action Plan present the biology of sea turtles and what we know of their distribution around
our islands. The Plan also illustrates that on all islands the living conditions for these animals have
deteriorated over the years. Stresses such as habitat degradation, over-utilization, disease, inadequate
regulatory mechanisms and enforcement, as well as other man-made factors have minimized sea turtle
populations in and around the islands of the Netherlands Antilles. Several solutions have been pro-

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

posed in this document, including the management and protection of important habitats, protection of
all life stages of the different species, support for international legislation, development of public edu-
cation, and greater information exchange.

In some of the islands of the Netherlands Antilles appropriate solutions have been put in place,
but in others this has not occurred. Therefore, the overall picture is one of a fragmented and unco-
ordinated protective framework. There are many gaps. It can be concluded that, at the present time,
sea turtles face a hard struggle for life in the Netherlands Antilles. Faced with this reality, a decen-
tralized but integrated Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtle Project is proposed for immediate implementa-
tion. The details are described in the following sections. The Project takes into consideration both
what we already know about our sea turtles and what we need to find out; further, it establishes
priorities for short-term action.

4.62 Goals and objectives

The primary goal of this Project is to achieve a total recovery of sea turtles in the waters of the
Netherlands Antilles by eliminating all harvest and restoring living and nesting habitats. From a socio-
economic perspective, it is highly unlikely that anyone will earn noticeably less money or will loose
his or her job if this goal is attained. Secondary goals are to gather more data on the distribution of sea
turtles in the Netherlands Antilles, with special regard to the distribution of nesting activity on the
various islands, and to promote a public understanding of why the conservation and recovery of all sea
turtles in the Netherlands Antilles is necessary. To achieve these goals, two objectives must be met.

First, every island of the Netherlands Antilles must implement its own sea turtle project.
Because every island has its own local government, NGOs, and legislation, the implementation of sea
turtle conservation and recovery should be done at the island level. For Curacao, this could be a
mutual program by CARMABI and STINAPA (Dr. Walter L. Bakhuis, Director). In Bonaire, the
effort should be designed and executed by the local NGO, STINAPA-Bonaire (Roberto Hensen,
Director); in St. Maarten by STINAPA-St. Maarten (Francois van der Hoeven, Director); in St.
Eustatius by STINAPA-Statia; and in Saba by the Saba Conservation Foundation (Tom Van't Hof,

Every island's sea turtle project should consist of the following elements:

1. A Lead Organization to support and execute the project.
2. A time frame within which specific objectives must be met.
3. A budget to cover expenses incurred during all facets of the project.
4. A realistic survey and monitoring program to gather data on sea turtle
distribution and nesting.
5. Proposals for island legislation that provide for the complete protection of
sea turtles and their important habitats; these would be submitted to local
governments for consideration.
6. Increased public awareness achieved through a wide variety of media and
other educational avenues.

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

Second, an overall project is needed at the national level to link all the island programs to-
gether. Furthermore, it is clear that important national and international legislation (CITES, MARPOL,
Cartagena Convention) must be executed from the national level. The government agency responsible
for the environment is the Department of Public Health and Environment, which is currently being
restructured to place greater emphasis on the environment. As part of an effort at national integration,
the following elements should be included:

1. Request/urge that every island design and implement a local sea turtle
conservation project.
2. Follow-up on the different island projects and support the local organ-
izations in their work whenever possible.
3. Draft additional legislation to protect sea turtles, ideally within the frame-
work of much-needed national legislation to protect marine resources and
the marine environment in general.
4. Produce and distribute general information (brochures or other educational
materials) on regulations and the protection of sea turtles.
5. Establish communication and information exchange among the islands by
means of a newsletter or other mechanism.
6. Raise and allocate funds for local sea turtle conservation projects.

Finally, it is noteworthy that STINAPA-Netherlands Antilles at Piscaderabaai in Curacao has a
special task. Being the national WIDECAST Coordinator and initiator of this Recovery Action Plan,
the Curacao office has the knowledge and the manpower to perform the task of mediator and com-
municator. On the national as well as on the island levels, STINAPA-N.A. can be a major partner in
the implementation of sea turtle conservation projects. It can also work to identify and to obtain fund-
ing from sources where a government agency would not be competitive.

4.63 Activities

As described in section 4.62, each island project should include several activities. First, a Lead
Organization needs to be selected to identify and rally other organizations for support; personnel may
need to be hired or redirected to accommodate new program responsibilities. Realistic programs must
be defined and implemented to accurately survey potentially important habitats (see section 4.11),
assess contemporary threats (see sections 4.13, 4.14), and evaluate needed conservation strategies and
management plans for critical nesting and foraging areas. Local legislation must be examined, gaps
identified, and new more comprehensive legislation submitted to island councils for adoption (see
sections 4.21, 4.23). Public awareness campaigns will be necessary at all levels (see section 4.4). An
integrated national effort must involve educational activities such as brochures, slide presentations,
regular newspaper articles, television and radio spots, etc. Fund-raising, a broad category that includes
outlining a budget, identifying potential donors and submitting grant proposals, is an essential activity
at all levels. Finally, actions that amplify and encourage communication are imperative. Contacts
among neighboring islands should be kept alive; we must learn from each other's successes and mis-
takes. Regular feedback to the national government and the local WIDECAST representative will
foster a greater cohesiveness amongst island efforts.

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

4.64 Results and outputs

Using the decentralized approach, it is anticipated that several island programs will be imple-
mented in a relatively short period of time, perhaps by 1995. Specific results and outputs are expected
to include:

1. Comprehensive legislation for each island, as well as at the national level,
that protects all sea turtles at all times and major parts of their environ-
ment. The latter may be achieved by designation and support of Marine
Parks or other conservation areas.
2. A better knowledge of the distribution and abundance of sea turtles,
especially the nesting beaches of these animals.
3. Detailed recommendations to each island government regarding the pro-
tection and conservation of suitable nesting beaches. A balance between
development and conservation must be sought in this regard.
4. A better understanding on the part of the citizenry why it is important to
protect and conserve sea turtles for future generations.

4.65 Budget

Ideally we would have liked to project a budget for the activities described above so that we
could proceed with fund-raising without further delay. Unfortunately this is not possible because
every island needs to consider its own needs, and then tailor a program to suit its circumstances.
Nonetheless, a few observations can be made here. First, new and improved legislation for the pro-
tection of all life stages need not be costly. Specific recommendations to improve existing legislation
are provided in section 4.23 of this Recovery Action Plan. Continuous pressure and persuasion at the
right levels (island councils, influential political persons) will be the only way to get the required
legislation in place. Second, it is likely that governments will not allocate sufficient funds specifically
for sea turtle protection and conservation. Thus, it will sometimes be a better strategy to combine sea
turtle protection with other actions and projects, such as habitat conservation and rehabilitation. A
well written multi-faceted project proposal to the appropriate organization has a good chance of being


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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...


Dominican Reoublli

Puerto Rico


Curaca Bonair

as ^'


0 0o

tr f Virgin Gorda
- St. Johm n V Angullla
St. Thomas 4 St. Martin
St. Barthormy
Sa Barbuda
St. Crolx St, Eutatlus .
St. Kitts
Nevl s Antlgua

Montsrrat &

Guadeloupe r
a Marle Galante



St. Luci

St. Vlncent # Sarbaos
Be ula j.

The Grenadines
Carrlacou j

"% Tobago


L ~~~ IIIII '.. ... ....

100 150 200 250 300

Figure 1. The Netherlands Antilles consists of five Caribbean islands. The leeward islands are
Curagao and Bonaire, close to the mainland of Venezuela, while the windward islands are St. Maarten,
St. Eustatius, and Saba, forming part of the Lesser Antilles archipelago. Map source: ECNAMP, 1980.

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Curaqao Underwater Park
Foraging Areas
Possible Nesting Sites



0 5 10

Underwater Park

Figure 2. Reported sea turtle nesting and foraging areas in Curagao, Netherlands Antilles (modified
from ECNAMP, 1980).

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...



Bonaire Marine Park
Beaches Lac
Foraging Areas ':.:
-IN Possible Nesting Sites i:

0 5 10

Figure 3. Reported sea turtle nesting and foraging areas in Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles (modified
from ECNAMP, 1980).

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CEP Technical Report No. 11


Pinel Island


0 Molly Beday

V//// Foraging Areas
---- Possible Nesting Sites

0 2 4

O Man O'War Shoal

Figure 4. Reported sea turtle nesting and foraging areas in St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles (modi-
fied from Meylan, 1983).

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Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...

Figure 5. Reported sea turtle nesting and foraging areas in St. Eustatius, Netherlands Antilles (modi-
fied from Meylan, 1983).

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CEP Technical Report No. 11

Saba Marine Park
Foraging Areas


Figure 6. Reported sea turtle nesting and foraging areas in Saba, Netherlands Antilles (modified from
Meylan, 1983).

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I-:- : ::: :::- '--I

Netherlands Antilles Sea Turtles...


Green turtle (Chelonia mydas)
olive brown shell, often streaked; underside pale
yellow; plates on the shell do not overlap one
another, 1 pair of large scales between the eyes;
adults 95-125 cm shell length; to 230 kg; rounded,
slightly serrated jaw; feeds on sea grasses

Hawksbill turtle (Eretmocielys imbricata)
oval shell mottled brown, orange, yellow; plates
on the shell overlap one another and are pointed
posteriorly: 2 pair of scales between the eyes.
adults 70-95 cm shell length; to 85 kg; pointed
face and jaw; feeds in coral reefs

Loggerhead turtle (Carerta caretta)
color is red-brown to brown; head wide; plates
on the shell do not overlap one another; oval shell
is often encrusted with barnacles; adults 90-120
cm shell length; to 200 kg; feeds on mollusks and
other invertebrates; very rare

Leatherback turtle (Dermocfelys coriacea)
lacks bony shell; leathery "shell" is strongly
tapered and is raised into 7 prominent ridges;
black with white or pale spots; adults 140-175
cm 'shell length'; 250-500 kg; summer visitor;
deep water, jellyfish eater; rare

Figure 7. Four species of sea turtle are known to nest in the Netherlands Antilles: the Green turtle or
Tortuga blanku (Chelonia mydas), the Hawksbill or Karet (Eretmochelys imbricata), the Loggerhead
or Kawama (Caretta caretta), and the Leatherback, Driekiel or Drikil (Dermochelys coriacea).

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