Support the Nature Foundation St. Maarten by voting for the Summer Sea Turtle Sustainability Grant

Photo caption: Beautiful green sea turtle in the Man of War Shoal Marine Protected Area Sint Maarten (photo credit Leslie Hickerson)

Philipsburg – The Nature Foundation St. Maarten is eligible to receive votes for the Summer Sea Turtle Sustainability Grant of $5,000 USD, which has been made possible by the Turtle Island Restoration Network and SEE Turtles to support sea turtle research and conservation projects.

The Nature Foundation has actively managed and monitored the sea turtle nesting activities on St. Maarten since 1997 collecting data of Leatherback, Hawksbill, Green and loggerhead sea turtles both on land and in the waters surrounding St. Maarten. The Foundation conducts various activities with regard to nesting including; beach surveys, nest excavations, tagging activities, and nest success research as well as capture and release programs for data collection via scuba diving. By monitoring sea turtles the Nature Foundation is better able to protect these creatures by enforcing existing rules and regulations and educating the public.

On St Maarten, all sea turtle species are protected by international laws and treaties as well as local laws. However, they still face great threats, namely plastic pollution, poor water quality, loss of nesting grounds, and boat strikes. Some turtles mistake plastic bags or debris for their food source. When eaten plastic can cause blockages and even make turtles unnaturally buoyant, meaning that the turtle may starve to death and becomes more prone to boat strikes. Poor water quality can lead to tumor growth or skin disease on turtles. Nesting grounds are often lost to beachside construction and development. Driving on beaches, strong artificial lighting and umbrellas piercing the sand disturb those areas that can be nested. Boats driving through the bay and lagoon areas at high speeds have caused several turtle strikes where the shell is cracked and the turtle dies due to impact. In 2019 there were five fatal strikes reported to the Nature Foundation, while so far in 2020 there have been three.

In addition to local threats sea turtles are declining worldwide. Currently only 1% of sea turtles survive long enough to reach sexual maturity. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Hawksbill Sea Turtles as critically endangered, Greens are endangered and Loggerheads and Leatherbacks are both vulnerable.

By voting for The Nature Foundation to receive this grant you will be supporting the effort to protect these animals locally. The Summer Sea Turtle Sustainability Grant winner will be chosen exclusively by public vote; the organization that receives the most votes will win the full $5,000 to support their efforts to protect these creatures.

Public voting for the grant selection is open from May 4th until June 1st, 2020. To vote please visit the following website and submit your vote for the Nature Foundation St. Maarten.

The Nature Foundation is the designated focal point for Sea Turtle Conservation according to the Inter American Sea Turtle Convention, the SPAW Protocol on Endangered Species and Country Representative for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network and has received specialized training in Sea Turtle conservation, including in relocating turtle nests that are in danger due to human activities or natural events such as storm surge. Suspicion of sea turtles nesting and tracks can be reported via Facebook; Nature Foundation St Maarten or by email and phone numbers of the turtle patrol can be requested.

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