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The nesting season for the leatherback, green, loggerhead and hawksbill sea turtles that nest in the Virgin Islands runs from March to December every year, with different peak periods for different species. There are several key nesting areas on St. Croix, including Buck Island Reef National Monument, Sandy Point, and St. Croix’s east end beaches. Due to shrinking worldwide populations, all sea turtles are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

This is the 22nd year of research by the National Park Service on Buck Island sea turtles and the 28th year of continuous study and conservation by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Sandy Point. They gather similar information but with different areas of focus.

“Our leatherback conservation and research project is the longest leatherback project in the world,” said Claudia Lombard, a wildlife biologist working at Sandy Point. “We’ve been collecting data for 28 years and have the largest database.”

Each nesting turtle usually digs and lays five to six nests per season, but only returns to nest every two or three years. Buck Island, Sandy Point and Jack and Isaac bays are patrolled nightly both to protect nesting turtles and to continue long-term research on these endangered and threatened sea turtles in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

From OnePaper.com, here are precautions you should take when in the nesting areas:

“If you encounter turtles nesting or hatchlings on any St. Croix beach, the Park Service and Fish and Wildlife want you to remember all sea turtles are protected, not just the ones in parks. Beach goers need to follow all beach regulations, especially regarding fires, dogs and tent stakes, to keep from damaging nests. Boat operators should drive cautiously. Sea turtles rise slowly to breathe and it takes them several seconds to dive to safety when they hear an approaching motor boat, according to the National Park Service. Shield the lights. Bright lights will disorient nesting adults as well as hatchlings. Watch from a distance and don’t use flashlights or a camera flash. If you find an adult or hatchling in distress at Buck Island, you can call the National Park Service Resource Management 24 hours a day at (340) 277-6863, or you can call the National Park Service headquarters in Christiansted at (340) 773-1460. Issues at Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge should be directed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (240) 773-4554 and for other locations, call the V.I. Department of Fish and Wildlife at (340) 643-0800.”