Beach erosion threatens nesting grounds for sea turtles in Guyana

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Shell Beach [Photo taken from the Guyana Chronicle]
Beach loss due to erosion continues to threaten safe nesting grounds for sea turtles in Guyana.

Hundreds of sea turtles nest at the Shell Beach Protected Area in Region One (Barima-Waini) annually.

However, as the years go by, erosion continues to be a major challenge.

Site Coordinator at the Protected Areas Commission, Samuel Benn on Tuesday noted that erosion has negatively impacted nesting activity within 2015 and 2018.

During a ‘Sea Turtle Conservation’ webinar, in commemoration of World Sea Turtle day on June 16, Benn explained that the main challenge affecting sea turtles is “beach loss due to erosion” – mostly by wave activity.

Statistics show that in 2015, a total of 353 turtles had nested in Guyana however by 2018, this figure had decreased to just 151.

In 2019, there was a slight increase to 193.

Sea turtles nest every year from February to August at Shell Beach; however, each sea turtle would nest within three to four years intervals.

Whenever a sea turtle is encountered, it is measured and a tag attached to the animal for identification.

Benn noted that if it is observed that a turtle nests in an area that is prone to erosion or likely to erode before that nest is hatched, that clutch would be relocated to a safer spot.

Shell Beach is known primarily as the main nesting site for four of the world’s seven sea turtle species: the Leatherback, Hawksbill, Oliver Ridley and Green Sea Turtles.

During nesting seasons, stakeholders are asked to report any sea-turtle sighting to the Protected Areas Commission, WWF, Guyana Wildlife and Conservation and Management Commission; Department of Fisheries or the Guyana Marine Conservation Society.

In 2017, Shell Beach had been temporarily closed to tourists due to erosion.

Meanwhile, other issues affecting sea turtles are accidental capturing in fishing nets and the poaching of eggs as well as the slaughtering of female adult turtles.