Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge will be closed to public visitation beginning April 1. The refuge and all of its beaches will remain closed to the public until Saturday, Sept. 1. The refuge will then resume regular open hours Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., which will include weekdays when a cruise ship is in port at Frederiksted.
The refuge is closed during this time every year in order to protect the nests and hatchlings of the endangered leatherback sea turtle. These turtles begin nesting in February each year, and the first hatchling turtles emerge from their nests during April and will continue to emerge through August. During the hatching process, baby leatherback turtles remain just below the surface of the sand before they emerge at sunset. Because they wait only inches below the surface, unsupervised human activity on the beach can be disastrous. A single footstep over the hatchlings can kill the hatchlings near the surface, but may also prevent hatchlings further below from digging their way to the surface. All of the baby turtles can be destroyed by one small step! It is impossible for visitors to know where turtle nests are located below the surface of the sand.
All species of sea turtles are listed as threatened or endangered, which means that if measures are not taken now to protect and manage them, sea turtles could become extinct. Since 1995, Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge has closed seasonally during May, June, July and August each year in an effort to protect hatchling turtles. The understanding and cooperation of the public is essential in helping prevent this important wildlife from disappearing.
How can I learn more about sea turtles? The Turtle Watch Education Program continues to take student, youth, and community groups to the refuge to observe nesting turtles and hatchling emergences. The program is closely supervised and coordinated with research teams so as not to disturb the turtles. Reservations for groups of 15-30 people can be made by calling 340.690-9452 or e-mailing email@example.com.
All sea turtles are protected by federal law and Virgin Islands territorial law. The US Fish & Wildlife Service offers a reward up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction for those who pursue, capture, harass, injure or kill an endangered species. Please report any violations to:
USVI-DPNR-Division of Enforcement: 773-5774
USVI Police Department: dial 911 or 772-9111 (from your cellular)