Initiatives

Towards Pasture Point

Towards Pasture Point

Habitat Restoration

Several decades ago, sand was mined from Pasture Beach to create a second beach on Jumby Bay. The environmental effects of sand mining were not considered in those days, and loss of sand destabilized the maritime forest, exposing root systems and causing sand and vegetation loss with each successive hurricane. These changes were particularly problematic since hawksbills have a strong preference for nesting in and around vegetation.

The project was concerned that the reduction in beach vegetation would create an environment less conducive to hawksbill nesting. Additionally, because more turtles would be compelled to nest in open sand, hatchling sex-ratios could be biased (sea turtles have temperature dependent sex determination). In the late 1990s, the Island began efforts to revegetate the beach to benefit hawksbills. Beach gardens composed of seagrapes, inkberry, morning glory vines, bay cedar, and other plants have been cultivated in areas where vegetation has been lost, recreating nesting habitat for the turtles.

This landscape modification is of great regional interest. Extensive coastal development is occurring throughout the Caribbean and around the world, and beachfront hotels traditionally prize white sandy beaches, which may not be hawksbill friendly. At Jumby Bay, we’ve found that planted beach gardens can be attractive to tourists and turtles alike!

Hatchling

Hatchling

Genetics

Genetic research is also a focal area for future JBHP study. Hawksbill samples collected during previous years have contributed to regional stock assessments and helped us better understand genetic diversity and how Jumby Bay and Antigua fit into the regional hawksbill picture. We are currently interested in better understanding Jumby Bay’s specific population structure.  For example, are there mother-daughter pairs nesting on Pasture Beach? Do these related individuals show high fidelity to specific nesting sites and foraging areas?

Satellite Tracking

In partnership with the NMFS, the JBHP attached satellite transmitters to fourhawksbills in 1998. We were able to track their movements during the following year, as three of the turtles foraged at the nearby islands of St. Kitts, St. Eustatius, and Redonda. The fourth individual seemed to remain very close to Jumby Bay but was never spotted in the area. She returned to nest at Pasture Beach in 2002- with no sign of a transmitter!  The other three turtles have also returned safely to Jumby Bay to nest, whereupon researchers have removed their inactive transmitters.

Nesting Hawksbill at Jumby Bay

Nesting Hawksbill at Jumby Bay

We hope to launch a new satellite tracking initiative in the coming year to learn more the movements of Jumby Bay’s turtles. The 1990s study yielded interesting preliminary results, but since these three turtles represent less than 1% of the total identified nesting hawksbills, many questions remain. For example, a fisherman in the southwestern Dominican Republic – some 900 km from Antigua – captured a Jumby Bay hawksbill during 2010! By knowing the locations of important feeding sites and understanding hawksbill migration patterns and in-water behaviors, we are better able to make recommendations for continued hawksbill conservation.