Abstract

This study reviews the status of marine turtles in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) using data gathered during a multidisciplinary study involving field surveys, questionnaire-based interviews, and molecular genetics between 2002 and 2006. Large aggregations of foraging turtles in the archipelago's waters are dominated by juvenile green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), with provisional mixed-stock analysis of these species suggesting that the aggregations originate predominantly from larger and relatively proximate source rookeries in the Wider Caribbean region. This study also suggests that the islands host remnant nesting populations of turtles, with hawksbill turtle nests recorded more frequently than green and loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) nests. The TCI islanders retain a culture of turtle use, with the current regulated and legitimate harvest likely to be one of the largest among the Caribbean Islands. This study suggests that historic and current harvest of turtles and their eggs in the TCI may have contributed to the apparent decline in the country's nesting populations. In order to address this conservation concern, changes to the regulation and management of the TCI's turtle fishery are necessary, but further research is needed to inform these changes.

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