The beautiful beaches of the northern U.S. Virgin Islands had some special visitors this spring, eight leatherback sea turtle nests have been documented on local beaches. The largest and most ancient of all sea turtle species, leatherbacks regularly nest on St. Croix and Puerto Rico, but they are rarely seen on St. Thomas or St. John. Leatherback populations have been declining in the Northwest Atlantic recently, despite being protected. In the past, leatherbacks were so abundant in our area that some places, such as Trunk Bay, St. John and Trunk Bay, Tortola, were named after leatherbacks - trunk being a common name for leatherback.  

Dr. Paul Jobsis, UVI Center for Marine and Environmental Studies director, said that over the past 15 years, he is only aware of three or four leatherback nests on St Thomas and one on St John.  “Having eight in one year is very special. The truth is we don’t know why some leatherbacks have decided to nest on St Thomas and St John this year. Whatever the reason, it is great to have them, and we hope they come back every year.”    Dr. Jobsis speculated that the reason could be related to climate change, a response to predation at their normal nesting beaches, new turtles returning to their natal beaches, or some combination of all these factors.  

More information is available in a news release on the Media Section of the UVI - and from this direct link