History

The roots of the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project date back more than two decades.  In 1986, Dr. Jim Richardson and John Fuller, a prominent Antiguan lawyer, were attending a regional sea turtle meeting in Guadeloupe. After some discussion, John invited Jim to Antigua to investigate a potential hawksbill nesting beach on a small private island off the Antiguan coast. Following some initial reconnaissance work that spring, Jim and Lynn Corliss returned to the beach in the fall to determine if it would possible to study the elusive hawksbill. Not much was known about the species at the time, and hawksbills were believed to be too skittish to successfully research.  However, those few weeks during the summer of 1986 were promising and suggested that hawksbill research was indeed a possibility.

So, Lynn returned the following year, and began nightly patrols on June 15, 1987. From the outset, the project sought to tag each nesting hawksbill and record every crawl on the quarter-mile length of Pasture Beach. The resilience and dedication of early project members like Lynn, coupled with the foresight and support of John Fuller and the scientific expertise of Jim, helped the project carry on. Through the years, the intensive saturation tagging research protocols have remained the same. The 2012 season marks the 26th consecutive year of hawksbill nesting ecology study at Jumby Bay.

There have certainly been challenges along the way, ranging from destructive hurricanes to the team being housed in a shipping container for a period of time! Fortunately, the days of such uncomfortable accommodations are far behind us. Construction has also taken place across the island, and the project has embraced these happenings as an opportunity to share the magic of sea turtles with new faces and forge novel partnerships between conservation and development. These experiences and events have helped shape the project into what it is today: a regional and global leader in hawksbill research and conservation and a model illustrating how wise development and marine conservation can successfully co-exist and achieve their respective goals. The Jumby Bay Island Company continues to generously support the project.

In an interview from a few years ago, Jim was asked if he ever envisioned the project lasting for so many years. He replied,

No, but I never really set a goal like that. I always just wanted to keep this thing going as long as I could. I thought if we get two years – wow. If we get five years – double wow. And now….it looks like the island loves it. It’s been there longer than the inhabitants now. It’s just part of the island.