Good Morning, Good Morning! I have some fantastic news to share with you today! Friends of Virgin Islands National Park (FVINP) announced yesterday via social media that the first sea turtle nest of the 2022 season was spotted this weekend. And, the FIVE FOOT wide tracks have been identified as being that of the elusive Leatherback Sea Turtle!
Last year, we saw a HUGE number of successful Hawksbill Sea Turtle hatchings on St. John. According to the FVINP 2021 Sea Turtle Report, 3,155 Hawksbills were born and came to life on the beaches of St. John with a successful trip down the beach to the sea with the help of their “Friends.” One hundred volunteers and staff members led by FVINP Sea Turtle Program Coordinators, Adren Anderson and Willow Melamet, put in at total of 1,642 man (and woman!) hours in order to monitor the 35 Hawksbill nests discovered around St. John.
Now, the turtles you frequently see swimming and munching around on our reefs and sea grass beds on St. John are the Green Sea Turtles and the Hawksbill Turtles. Green Sea Turtles can be up to 40 inches in length and up to 500 pounds while the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtles can be spotted at up to 25 inches in length and 100-150 pounds, according to the VINP website. However, the Leatherback Turtles can reach up to four to six FEET in length and 600 to 1100 pounds! I have never spotted one of these incredible creatures in the sea but imagine I might come close to drowning with excitement if I did! 🙂
Fun little factoid for you…Did you know that Trunk Bay is actually named after the Leatherback Turtle??? According to the VINP website, the Danes called them “trunk” turtles because they looked like a trunk floating on top of the water when they surfaced. And, many, many moons ago, these majestic creatures used to nest at Trunk Bay in abundance. Neat, huh?
So, now we have a Leatherback nest on St. John, which is super amazing! This doesn’t necessarily mean that these enormous turtles will stay local though. Sea turtles do not necessarily always inhabit the waters where they are born. Turtles can actually migrate 1000 miles in a year, but generally return to waters of their birth in order to lay their eggs.
Sea turtle nesting season generally peaks from August to November and, while we are still dwelling about in April, things are happening a bit ahead of schedule this year! But, if you are visiting over the summer, you can help spot and report these nests, enjoy some educational opportunities in regards to our little green friends AND protect our resident sea turtles while you enjoy the waters surrounding St. John.
- Maho Turtle Info Table: Every Tuesday and Thursday until June from 9AM to 11AM
- Friday With Friends Turtle Talk: Every third Friday until June. Open to all. Free for members. Learn more / register here.
- Cinnamon Bay Campground Chats: Every second Monday 5PM to 6PM. Learn more/register here.
- Unique Sea Turtle Boat & Snorkel Excursion: Every second Sunday until June (May 8 & 22) from St. Thomas and St. John. Learn more / purchase ticket here.
Additionally, FVINP can always use your help and there are multiple ways to assist! First, if you see something that might just be some turtle tracks on the beach, or you are lucky enough to actually witness a turtle ON the beach, call or email FVINP immediately to report the possible nesting site.
If you are a nerd, like I am, you will also find this sea turtle track identifying guide, courtesy of FVINP interesting! 🙂
But, the most important thing we can do to assist in protecting the turtles is to be proper in our etiquette while swimming with them. The general rule of thumb is to stay six to ten feet away (use your zoom lens!) and NEVER EVER touch a sea turtle. By doing so, we endanger these already dwindling and majestic creatures.
Oh, and if you are not on island but are interested in learning more about our resident sea grass munchers, I highly encourage you all to take a look at FVINP’s sea turtle education page. There are a TON of great resources and tidbits of information. I’ll admit, I’ve been going down quite the rabbit hole on their site this morning 🙂
So, keep an eye out for tracks on the beach, keep your distance in the water and…Adopt a sea turtle today in support of this wonderful sea turtle protection program!