Sea turtles, including Caribbean Hawksbills, are truly the ancient mariners of the world’s oceans with ancestors dating back over 100 million years. Caribbean Hawksbills have a unique and fascinating life history: they return to nesting beaches where they were hatched to lay their own eggs, can migrate thousands of miles, and are very long lived. They play important roles in coastal and marine habitats, but they are largely endangered throughout their range. Caribbean Hawksbills were intensively hunted in the 20th century for tortoiseshell, and threats remain for this endangered species including habitat loss, largely due to development, poaching of turtles and their eggs from nesting beaches, and commercial and artisanal fishing practices.
In 2007, the Wildlife Conservation Society, in partnership with the Belize Fisheries Department, started a long term in-water sea turtle monitoring program at Glover’s Reef Atoll. The main objectives of the monitoring program are to determine an absolute abundance estimate of the Glover’s Reef Atoll fore-reef habitat aggregation and long-term abundance, increase our knowledge of sea turtle movements and habitat use, assess genetic stock of foraging sea turtles at Glover’s Reef, study growth rates of sea turtles at Glover’s Reef, and build the capacity of stakeholders to collect accurate, reliable, and standardized data from foraging index sites (several staff from Government and NGOs have been trained)