The National Park Service (NPS) celebrates its 31st year of research on the sea turtles nesting at Buck Island Reef National Monument. NPS along with its partner agencies — U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USVI DPNR Division of Fish and Wildlife (VICZM), St. Croix East End Marine Park and The Nature Conservancy — informs the public about sea turtles and the special consideration the community needs to give them while they are here to nest on Virgin Islands beaches.
The nesting season for Virgin Islands sea turtles (leatherback, green, loggerhead and hawksbill) begins in March and continues through December of each year. There are several key nesting areas on St. Croix, including Buck Island Reef NM, USFWS Sandy Point NWR, St. Croix’s East End Beaches – Jack’s, Issac’s and East End Beaches — Southgate, Coakley Bay and Ha’ Penney Beach on the south shore.
Nearly all beaches on St. Croix are utilized by nesting sea turtles.
Beaches on Buck Island Reef NM will be patrolled nightly to protect nesting turtles and to continue long- term research on these endangered sea turtles in the U.S. Virgin Islands beginning July 21 and will last into October. As a reminder, Buck Island Reef NM beaches are closed to visitors after sunset and until sunrise. All boats overnighting at West Beach Anchorage will have to confirm an overnight permit with NPS Law Enforcement prior to staying. Contact 773-1460 or 277-6794.
If people encounter turtles nesting or hatchlings on any St. Croix beach, it is important to remember the following:
1. Protected – all sea turtles are protected throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Beach users need to closely follow all regulations, especially pertaining to beach fires, dogs, no digging in dry sand and never use tent stakes. Violations are subject to prosecution under civil and criminal laws and charged heavy penalties.
2. Drive Slowly – boat operators should drive cautiously; sea turtles rise slowly to the surface to breathe, and it takes them several seconds to dive to safety when they hear an approaching motor boat.
3. Shield Lights – bright lights along beaches will disorient nesting adult sea turtles and hatchlings.
Coastal property owners are encouraged to modify/shield or discontinue use of outdoor lights.
4. Keep a distance – do not interfere with nesting or hatchling sea turtles; observe from a distance. Do not use flashlights or flash photography.
5. How to help – if you find an adult or nest or hatchling sea turtle in distress, please contact one of the following parties:
At Buck Island Reef National Monument
NPS Resource Management 24 hour: 277-6794
NPS Headquarters Christiansted: 773-1460 (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
Sea Turtle Assistance and Rescue Network (STAR): 24-hour hotline: 690-0474
At Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS): 773-4554 or 690-9451
All other locations
VI DPNR Enforcement: 244-9066
VI DPNR Division of Fish & Wildlife: 773-1082
The National Park Service thanks all of our community members and friends for 50 years of support for Buck Island and look forward to an exciting year of events celebrating our unique Virgin Islands’ resources.