Within a period of two weeks, ending in early March, three green sea turtles have been found dead along the northeastern shoreline of St. Croix. These turtles sustained fracture wounds to their shells consistent with boat strike interactions. All sea turtles are air-breathing reptiles that must regularly swim to the surface to breathe. At these times, sea turtles are very vulnerable to boat traffic. Sea turtles can be seriously injured or killed if hit by the hull or propeller of a boat.
The Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue (STAR) is urging USVI /St Croix boaters to help protect sea turtles by following these recommendations:
- Always operate boats at safe and responsible speeds, especially when traveling close to any shoreline, coral reef, or seagrass bed. Respect no wake regulations in all designated anchoring and mooring areas (<6 knots) such as Fredriksted, Christiansted, Chenay Bay, Salt River, Teague Bay, and Cramer’s Park.
- When possible, stay in deep water channels while boating. Slow your boating speed over seagrass beds and coral reefs where sea turtles might be feeding. However, be aware that sea turtles also use deep water channels when traveling.
- When traveling to Buck Island, consider sending a skipper to the bow of the boat to stand watch for turtles and have this skipper indicate the turtle’s location. If spotted, slow immediately but safely to allow the turtle to depart the surface.
- Stay alert and avoid sea turtles that are swimming, basking, or mating on the surface. Look for a head, shell, or flipper breaking the surface of the water. A swirl or flat spot on the water is created by the motion of the sea turtle when it dives or swims. If you see a sea turtle when operating a powerboat, remain a safe distance away -- 50 feet is the suggested minimum.
If you encounter a sick, injured, or dead sea turtle, please call the Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue (STAR) Network: 340-690-0474. Put the number in your phone today!