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HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Turtle nesting now a wait-and-see

HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON, [email protected]

HEATHER-LYNN’S HABITAT: Turtle nesting now a wait-and-see

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WITH THE HAWKSBILL nesting season scheduled to officially begin in a matter of weeks, officials of the Barbados Sea Turtle Project are keeping a close eye on the Sargassum seaweed and any impact it might have on the endangered species.

A lifeguard stationed at Bath Beach, St John – one of the beaches heavily impacted by the pelagic North Atlantic seaweed – said that at least three hawksbills had already come in there for the year, but they had chosen a stretch of coastline where the build-up of Sargassum was not as heavy.

However, a boat owner based at Skeete’s Bay, St Philip, said turtles would usually be seen surfacing in the water of the bay, but with the influx of the seaweed, they had been absent.

Deputy director of the Barbados Sea Turtle Project (BSTP), Dr Carla Daniel, told the Daily Nation that hawksbills primarily nested on the West and South Coasts with a few coming in on East Coast beaches.

“As the South and West Coast are relatively clear at the moment, we wouldn’t anticipate it to be a problem for them,” she said.

Daniel added the nesting season of the leatherbacks, which used the energy of the Atlantic waves to help heave their tonne of weight on to the beach, was ongoing and monitoring of beaches on the East Coast by BSTP volunteers over the past few weeks had not revealed any issues.

“They are climbing over the Sargassum,” she said.

Daniel, however, conceded that the island had not really experienced a nesting season with a heavy build-up of Sargassum since the seaweed, in previous years, was gone by June.

“The primary concern would not be for the females coming up and nesting, it would be for hatchlings getting to the water. That might be one of the main problems – the hatchlings attempting to crawl through the Sargassum to get to the sea.”

In addition, she noted that hatchlings usually used banks of floating seaweed as protection, and should they choose the Sargassum in the water, “unfortunately because of the direction it is going, they will end up coming right back in.

“If it [the seaweed] does continue to keep coming in, especially on the South Coast, I guess we will find out this year how it will affect the turtles,” Daniel added.

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