Turtles of Long Caye
The shoreline of Long Caye have long provided nesting areas for Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Green sea turtles. For centuries, they have returned to lay their eggs. All three species of turtle are endangered. Of the three, the Hawksbill is the only one that is legally protected, the other two species are legally hunted during season. These turtles and their eggs are considered a delicacy, and their shells are used as jewelry and ornaments. On Long Caye we have provided a 66 foot beach setback for nesting sites to protect these important species.
Love your Reef – Love your Turtles
Nest sites must be carefully chosen, if they are flooded by tides the eggs will “drown” in the salt water. Obstructions such as seawalls may cause the turtle to select an unfavorable nesting site; beach erosion can also destroy nests. Another hazard to turtle eggs and hatchlings is normal beach traffic – people and beach- cleaning equipment. Such traffic may crush the eggs in the nest or compact the sand so the hatchlings cannot emerge.
Hatching occurs over two days. The young sense the heat of the surface sand and lie quietly until the temperature cools, usually leave the nest at night or on a cloudy day after a rain. Sea Turtle Hatchlings head for the sea under natural conditions, the light reflected from the surf being a beacon they readily follow. Beachfront development has flooded the coastline with unnatural illumination. This can disorient the hatchlings. They become tangled in vegetation, lost among the dunes or in peril on the highways. Most die from desiccation.
When the eggs hatch, the journey from the nest to the sea can be hazardous. Crabs and birds stand by to feed on the young turtles and, once in the water, various fishes await the vulnerable young prey. The mortality rate of juveniles at sea is undoubtedly high for they are food for a wide variety of fish. It has been estimated that of the 100 eggs originally deposited in a nest, perhaps only one or two will survive to maturity.
To help protect sea turtles, there are several things we can do, besides participating with a permitted group.
- Do not harass or disturb a nesting turtle.
- Be alert for hatchling turtles that may become disoriented; turn off or shield beach lighting during the nesting season.
- When boating, be alert for sea turtles and avoid colliding with them.
The Loggerhead Sea Turtle
The Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Caretta caretta, are named from their massive, block-like head and broad, short neck. They are the only turtle in the genus Caretta and are listed as a threatened species. International trade is completely banned and the turtle is considered to be vulnerable worldwide.
Loggerhead turtles are the most frequently observed turtles in Caribbean waters. They are one of the largest of the hard-shell turtles, with adults measuring 36 to 38 inches in length, and a weight range of 200 to 350 pounds, but larger specimens have been reported. The upper shell or carapace is widest near the front, just behind the front flippers and then tapers toward the rear. It is colored reddish-brown with some yellow, underneath, the plastron is creamy yellow. The carapace has five pairs of costal shields or plates on each side of the central row of plates. The shell margin of young loggerheads has a somewhat serrated appearance, which disappears as the turtle matures. The limbs are paddle-shaped and each has two claws. As with all sea turtles, the adult male has a longer tail than the female.
The Hawksbill Sea Turtle
The Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricate, has a hooked, beak-like jaws that give it its common name. The scientific name, Eretmochplys, means “oar turtle,” based on the way it swims, and the specific name, imbricata, means “overlapping” because the shields on the carapace overlap like tiles on a roof.
Hawksbills usually range from 30 to 36 inches in length and weigh 100 to 200 pounds. The record is 280 pounds. The thin shields overlaying the bones of the carapace, also known as “tortoise shell,” are beautifully marked with amber and reddish tones with shadings to yellow, white, black and green. The plastron is whitish-yellow, occasionally with a few black splotches. The young tend to be black to brownish-black, with touches of light brown. The body has an elongated oval shape; the head is quite narrow. As with green turtles, there are four pairs of costal shields on each side of the central plates on the carapace. The shields overlap, with the exposed edges rough and serrated. The limbs usually bear two claws.
The Green Sea Turtle
Green Sea Turtles, Chelonia mydas, are named for their greenish skin color. There are two types the Atlantic and the Eastern Pacific. Each type has an expansive range, the Atlantic can be found from the North Atlantic and Europe, to the Carribean while the Eastern Pacific is found from Alaska to Chile. These turtles are listed as endangered. However, globally they are still hunted for their meat and eggs.
Green sea turtles among the largest in the world and can live over 80 years. Individuals have been recorded with a carapace measuring over 60 inches and weighing up to 700 pounds. They have a proportionally small, non-retractable head that extends from a heart-shaped, wide and smooth carapace. Their streamlined build and paddle like flippers allow them to reach speeds of 35 mph. They have green skin and their carapace ranges from deep brown to olive depending on habitat while their under shell, or plastron, is yellow. Males are often larger than females and can be identified by their longer tails.
Living on Long Caye is existing on a private island where you are an integral part of the eco-system. You are part of how the island and the community stays healthy. The Community on Long Caye (the development itself) is designed to promote and sustain the health of the surrounding tropical reef and jungle environment. Residents and businesses, understand that by honoring the Eco-guidelines we can “have our cake and eat it, too” by respecting the natural assets. Your parcel and home is a part of the overall design of all-encompassing, unsurpassed access to an extraordinary ecological system while ACTIVELY preserving the the Caye and its surrounds. We have designed the community with a long term vision.
All of Long Caye is essentially a preserve. Stewardship of the surrounding environment is a core value for us. We take a long term, holistic approach to building community on Long Caye, through the mindful, yet aggressive, adoption of leading edge environmentally friendly technologies. We seek to demonstrate to the world the achievements possible when people, passion and technology team up with nature to create an extraordinary living and visiting experience. Our Conservation Ethos is enacted in perpetuity by the Eco-Guidelines – and they ensure that Long Caye will be here for future generations. As stewards of the atoll, we will not sacrifice our ecological standards or compromise our principals.
We hope to bridge the gap between the enjoyment of access and conscientious preservation of the natural environment – to prove that environmental assets can be preserved, protected AND enjoyed in a fashion that actually promotes the long term health of such assets for the greater good. Community and Conservation priorities are fulfilled with a deep and abiding respect for the Local Culture that has preceded us for centuries in the Lighthouse Reef atoll. We are friends, supporters and business partners to the fishers that have responsibly used the Lighthouse Reef for their livelihood for generations. We understand and promote sustainable business in the Atoll and on the Caye.