ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
When you visit Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, you should check out the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. It’s located on Park Beach on the northeast side of the island.
Since 1995, Orton King, a skin-dive fisherman from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has devoted his retirement attempting to increase the hawksbill sea turtle population.
They are on the endangered list because fishermen kill them for their eggs, meat, and shells. On January 1, 2017, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines banned killing all sea turtles. However, these reptiles still face a fierce battle.
Fishermen who had relied on them for food and to earn their living may be reluctant to stop the slaughter. Even if they cease killing them, the turtles face accidental capture by fishing nets. Pollution adds to their dilemma by destroying their habitat.
HOPE FOR THE HAWKSBILL SEA TURTLE
OLD HEGG TURTLE SANCTUARY
King raises hatchlings in the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary by feeding them canned tuna fish until they graduate to small fish. He keeps the turtles until they can fend for themselves, though we saw one that was about twenty-two years old.
To identify his turtles, King has drilled a small hole in their shells before releasing them in the Grenadine waters. Though divers had located some, others had been found slaughtered.
HEGG TURTLE SANCTUARY CONTROVERSY
There’s discussion about whether King’s sanctuary is beneficial to the hawksbill. Some feel that the turtles are at a disadvantage when released into the wild if they can’t protect themselves. Also, controversy has arisen concerning the size of the sanctuary’s concrete pools; their high turtle mortality rate; and King’s methods to treat them.
When we met King at his sanctuary in Bequia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, he seemed sincere in his plan to increase the hawksbill turtle population. We hope that he is successful.
TOBAGO CAYS, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
While in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, you should take a boat over to the Tobago Cays Marine Park where you can snorkel and see the hawksbills, and beautiful fish, in their natural habitat. We spotted some munching on seagrass, and we had wondered if some of them were the result of King’s nurturing.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
When you visit Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, tour the Hegg Turtle Sanctuary and donate $15 (Eastern Caribbean Dollar) to their cause. Also, please avoid buying any sea turtle or other endangered species merchandise.