Four of the world's seven sea turtle species are found in The Bahamas

Sea turtles are long-lived marine reptiles that spend the majority of their lives at sea. They have survived for millions of years but recently they have succumbed to anthropogenic threats that could lead to their eventual extinction. The history of sea turtles in the Caribbean dates back centuries and four of the world’s seven sea turtle species are found in The Bahamas. Traditionally harvested by local fishermen for their rich meat, sea turtles provided a valuable source of income to fishermen, and an important food source to island people. Overexploitation and habitat loss has caused all four species to be recognized as endangered or critically endangered, and subsequently listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. In response to these severe declines in population numbers, the Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources passed legislation that gave full protection to all sea turtles found in Bahamian waters in 2009. It is now illegal to harvest, buy or sell any marine turtle products, yet sea turtles are still in danger of losing important nesting grounds and foraging habitats due to coastal development. The protection of individuals in Bahamian waters allows for the investigation of information that is vital for the effective management and conservation of sea turtles populations throughout their early life stages, as harvest or other anthropogenic disturbance could reduce the reproductive potential of the entire population.

Our Research

The shallow banks environment of The Bahamas is an important foraging ground for green and hawksbill sea turtles during the juvenile and sub-adult phases, when they frequent coastal habitats such as tidal mangrove creeks, seagrass beds and coral reefs. The research conducted at CEI aims to investigate the spatial dynamics of immature green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles(Eretmochelys imbricata) within foraging grounds around South Eleuthera, Bahamas. The goal is to elucidate the processes of site selection, movements and site fidelity, resource use, and interactions between individuals within foraging grounds. Identifying these fine-scale patterns will contribute to a better understanding of habitat use within discrete aggregations of foraging sea turtles, and identify essential habitat for these endangered species

 

Collaboration & Support

Our research is conducted in collaboration with the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, University of Florida, and the Family Island Research and Education organization. This program is funded in part by the generous support of Earthwatch Institute. For more information please contact Annabelle Brooks at annabellebrooks@ceibahamas.org.