Data Nesting Season 2023: Need for adaptation for future of sea turtles in Suriname

Posted on
21 May 2024
Artikel in het Nederlands: DATA LEGSEIZOEN 2023

Sea turtles travel hundreds of kilometres to lay their eggs on Suriname's beaches. As in previous years, in the 2023 season, WWF-Guianas supported the monitoring and management activities of the Nature Management Division of the Forestry Department, in collaboration with the Sustainable Nature Management Foundation Alusiaka (Stidunal) from Galibi. The 2023 results are highlighted against the trend, where concerns remain and adaptation is necessary.

Suriname currently has two main nesting beaches where female sea turtles come ashore to lay eggs: Braamspunt and the beaches near Galibi. From March to mid-June 2023, game wardens and trained community data collectors from Stidunal tracked how many nests there are, what species the nest belongs to, whether there has been poaching, how many turtles have been washed ashore, killed by jaguar attacks and counted the number of nests where young have hatched (hatchlings).
A total of over 14,000 nests have been recorded, 98% of which are of the green turtle. The number of nests in 2023 is in line with the expectation, based on data collected since 2001. However, the total of only 272 leatherback turtle nests, with Braamspunt being the main nesting beach, raises serious concerns.

In 2019, the IUCN placed the Northwest Atlantic leatherback turtle subpopulation on the endangered species list. A Regional Action Plan (RAP) was drawn up from the three Guianas and Trinidad & Tobago to secure the future of this special species by addressing the threats. 

The green turtle has a clear preference for Suriname's beaches. The average number of nests of over 18,000 in the 10 years before COVID-19 and about 14,000 nests in 2022 and 2023, is well above Guyana's figures (272 in 2023 and 1945 in French Guiana). The green turtle faces the same threats as the leatherback turtle. With a sound regional approach, this population size can be maintained.
Regarding the number of leatherback turtle nests, a serious decline is also reported by neighbouring countries Guyana and French Guiana. Partly for this reason, there is collaboration at the regional level to reduce bycatch, tackle IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing, and experience is being shared on setting up 'hatcheries', where eggs are hatched in a controlled way and factors such as coastal erosion, sea level rise and poaching have less impact on the number of newborn sea turtles finding their way to the ocean.

French Guiana observes fewer leatherback turtle nests than average near the border with Suriname. Further east, however, 1609 nests have been reported, a promising result. The future will show whether the trend reverses.
Unlike Suriname, where Olive Ridley turtles (Warana) have barely come ashore in recent years, the number of Warana nests in French Guiana is practically stable, with 3613 in 2023.
Under favourable conditions, hatchlings hatch after about two months and make their way to the ocean, after which only an estimated 1 in 1,000 little ones will defy all dangers and becomes an adult. Due to coastal erosion, the total flooding of nesting beaches and rise in temperature, it has been observed that too many nests fail to hatch. To give more sea turtle hatchlings a chance, there are several initiatives regionally to set up controlled hatcheries.
Sea turtle eggs are poached for financial gain and offered for consumption. The efforts to combat this problem have focused on organised crime, with multiple nests being emptied and thousands of eggs being trafficked by poachers.
This approach has already yielded results in the early months of 2023, with tens of thousands of eggs seized and destroyed and five arrests, resulting in a significant decrease in poaching observed later in the season.

In Marowijne, Commewijne, Wanica and Paramaribo, dozens of schools were visited by the Nature Management Education and Information Section with the support of WWF-Guianas and the Commewijne District Commissioner's Office. Students were interactively educated about the value of sea turtles for the ecosystem, the dangers on land and in the sea and the penalties for poaching, trade and consumption of eggs.
Information regarding poaching of nests and/or trade in turtle eggs can be shared anonymously with the Nature Conservation Department. Contact (+597) 471641 or WWF-Guianas Suriname can be reached through (+597) 422357 or