Sea Turtles Nesting in the Dominican Republic


Five species of sea turtles can be found in the coasts of the Dominican Republic (DR):

  1. Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)
  2. Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
  3. Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
  4. Olive Ridley, Pacific Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea)
  5. Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Only the first three species (leatherback, green and hawksbill turtles) nest in Dominican beaches. As in the rest of the world, populations of nesting turtles (adults) as well as feeding grounds (juvenile y adult turtles) vary; when it comes to reproduction, sea turtles often perform extensive migrations from their feeding grounds to their natal beach. All nesting populations in the Dominican Republic are in critical condition, with the main nesting coasts (Saona Island and Jaragua National Park) recording under 30 females per year.

 

*Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

Leatherbacks are the only species of sea turtle with a soft shell. They feature five longitudinal ridges in dark gray or black with white or pale spots, their heads have no scales and have prominent upper jaws with a sharp, curved bill. The leatherback is the largest of all sea turtles inhabiting tropical or subtropical seas. They reach a length of over six feet and can weigh more than 1,000 lbs.

Leatherback turtles feed mainly on jellyfish. 

Each nesting ranges from 80 to 90 eggs.

Nesting Season: May – July

Nesting Beaches in the Dominican Republic: La Vacama, Muerta Beach, El Valle, Coson, Cabarete, Los Yayales, Mosquea Beach in Jaragua National Park, Saona Island, Manresa Beach.

Major threats include floating plastic, particularly disposable shopping bags which leatherbacks see as jellyfish and eat. Other threats include their capture, collecting their eggs and selling them and their meat for human consumption. Leatherbacks are also prone to get accidentally caught in new and discarded fishing nets.

Leatherback

Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Features a flattened carapace with four shields on each side, dark gray-green head with two prefrontal scales above the eyes.

Length and Weight: It can measure up to 49 inches long and weigh up to 350 lbs.

Feeding: It feeds on seaweeds and shellfish.

Each nesting ranges from 115 to 150 eggs.

Nesting Season: May- September

Nesting Beaches in the Dominican Republic: Saona, Jaragua National Park, Guibia, San Souci, Los Pescadores, El Valle, Catalina Island.

Major threats include catching, collecting their eggs and selling their meat for human consumption and fishing nets, in which they get accidentally caught.

Green-Sea-Turtle

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Hawksbill turtles have hard brown and yellow shells, covered in plates with serrated edges, and have two visible claws on each fin. Their heads have two pairs of plates
between the eyes and a sharp beak.

Length and Weight: They can measure up to 3.3 ft in length and reach a weight of up to 400 lbs.

They feed on algae, seagrasses, shellfish and marine sponges.

Each nesting ranges from 160 to 250 eggs.

Nesting Season: June-December

Nesting Beaches in the Dominican Republic: Saona Island, Catalina Island, Jaragua National Park, Sosua, Guibia, Los Pescadores, Estero Hondo, Punta Cana. 

Major threats include catching, collecting their eggs and selling their meat for human consumption and fishing nets, in which they get accidentally caught. Particular to this species is the use of their shell for the production of accessories and crafts.

 

Careyes

Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Loggerhead turtles have bony carapaces, longer than wide, with five pairs of side shields, in a reddish brown color; their heads have two pairs of prefrontal scales. A specimen can measure up to 4 ft long and weigh up to 350 lbs.

It feeds on crabs, snails and lobsters.

Nesting Season: May- October

Florida is the largest nesting site for this species globally.

This species does not nest in Dominican coasts. There are reports of loggerheads being captured along the Atlantic coast of the Dominican Republic (in Montecristi, Maria Trinidad Sanchez, and Samana)

Major threats include catching, collecting their eggs and selling their meat for human consumption, and fishing nets, in which they get accidentally caught.

Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea)

Its shell is shorter and wider with high spinal projection, especially in juveniles. They have five to nine pairs of costal scutes with a slightly asymmetrical triangular configuration, relatively large head with dark olive green color. Olive ridleys measure 24-27 inches and weigh 80-110 lbs.

Olive ridleys do not nest in Dominican coasts.

Major threats on the East Coast and in the Caribbean coast include catching, collecting their eggs and selling their meat for human consumption as well as fishing nets, in which they get accidentally caught.

The main activities that threaten these five species are:

Capture.

The collection of eggs for sale and consumption.

Marketing their meat for human consumption

Use of carapace to manufacture accessories and crafts.

New and discarded fishing nets in which all five species get caught.

Floating plastic (particularly plastic bags) that some species see as jellyfish and eat.

Omar Shamir Reynoso

Biólogo Marino. Diplomado en impacto ambiental, derecho marítimo internacional y Análisis de Peligros y Puntos Críticos de Control (HACCP) de productos pesqueros. Amante de la navegación y el mar.

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