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3 Kinds Of Sea Turtles Commonly Seen In The U S Virgin Islands

After all, a visit to the USVI is barely complete without seeing sea turtles!

a turtle swimming under water

Welcome aboard and to the US Virgin Islands, fellow seafarers! As you embark on your time in St. Thomas, St. John, Water Island and our surrounding cays, we hope your visit includes sightings of our local sea turtles. At Seas the Day Charters USVI, we believe sea turtles are one of the most graceful creatures and are grateful they allow us to share their home, the sea. 
Join us as we dive in to learn more about the three types of sea turtles that you may see on a trip to the USVI and British Virgin Islands and aboard a boat charter with Seas the Day Charters USVI.

The Green Sea Turtle

Known for their captivating beauty and distinctive size, Green Sea Turtles are a cherished sight in the waters of St. Thomas, St. John and the BVI and are the most common type of sea turtle we see on board our full and half day Seas the Day USVI boat charters. 

Fun facts:

  • Green Sea Turtles can grow up to 5 feet in length and weigh over 700 pounds, making them one of the largest sea turtle species. Their shells, also known as carapaces, are predominantly brown or olive in color, and their name comes from the greenish hue of their skin and fat. 
  • These herbivores have an essential role in maintaining the balance of the marine ecosystem by feasting on seagrass and algae, which primarily makes up their diet. 
  • They use their strong jaws to tear through the vegetation, contributing to the health of seagrass beds.
  • Green Sea Turtles can be found in a variety of habitats, including coral reefs, seagrass beds and coastal areas with abundant food sources. 
  • They are known to migrate long distances and often return to the same nesting grounds to lay their eggs.

Green Sea Turtles have faced significant threats in the past, including hunting, habitat loss and entanglement in fishing gear. Fortunately, conservation efforts have been successful in stabilizing their populations. Organizations in the USVI are actively engaged in monitoring nesting sites, protecting eggs and educating the local community and visitors about the importance of these majestic creatures.

Aboard every charter with Seas the Day USVI, our captains and crew remain diligent in safely navigating our boats to avoid sea turtles, promoting safe snorkeling practices and helping to remove debris, like plastic, found in that water that could be harmful if consumed by marine life.

The Hawksbill Sea Turtle

Known for their striking appearance and unique features, the striking Hawksbill Sea Turtle is an emblem of the Virgin Islands rich marine biodiversity.

Fun Facts:

  • Hawksbill Sea Turtles get their name from their pointed beaks, which resemble a hawk’s bill. 
  • Their shells showcase a breathtaking blend of colors, featuring various shades of brown, amber and black. 
  • Hawksbill Sea Turtles are omnivorous, feasting primarily on sponges, which are abundant in the coral reef ecosystems. They use their sharp beaks to extract these delicate organisms from crevices and coral structures.
  • These turtles prefer shallow waters, coral reefs and rocky coastlines, making the waters surrounding St. Thomas and St. John ideal for their habitation.

The Hawksbill Sea Turtle is listed as critically endangered due to habitat destruction and hunting. Conservation initiatives are focused on protecting nesting sites, raising awareness about responsible tourism practices and reducing the demand for hawksbill products through education and legislation.

The Leatherback Sea Turtle

The largest of all sea turtles—the mighty Leatherback is known for their immense size and unique physical characteristics which make them an extraordinary, although typically rare sight in the waters we visit in the USVI and BVI. 

Fun Facts: 

  • Leatherback Sea Turtles are the largest reptiles on Earth, with some individuals reaching lengths of up to 7 feet and weighing over 2,000 pounds. 
  • Unlike other sea turtles, they possess a unique soft, rubbery shell covered in leathery skin. They are also known for their long-distance migrations and remarkable diving abilities, reaching depths of over 3,000 feet.
  • These impressive creatures are avid consumers of jellyfish, a primary source of nutrition. Their diet helps regulate jellyfish populations, preventing jellyfish blooms and their potential impacts on marine ecosystems.
  • Leatherback Sea Turtles are found in the open ocean and undertake extensive migrations, often traveling thousands of miles between nesting and foraging grounds.

Leatherback Sea Turtles face threats from accidental capture in fishing gear, ingestion of marine debris and disturbance of nesting sites. Conservation initiatives focus on reducing these risks, implementing sustainable fishing practices and safeguarding critical nesting beaches.

When you visit the beaches and bays of St. Thomas, St. John, Water Island in the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, whether it’s on your own or when you book a boat charter with Seas the Day USVI remember to keep your eyes peeled and look for the magnificent sea turtles that grace our Caribbean seas. Witnessing these gentle giants in their natural habitat is not only a privilege but a reminder of the importance of preserving and protecting our marine ecosystems. Please help us to embrace our role as stewards of the sea, working together to ensure a thriving future for these remarkable creatures and the wondrous world they call home.

 

 

June 9, 2023