Tourism has long driven the economy of Tobago, as clearly demonstrated by the number of guesthouses and hotels which have been established over the years. While many tourists flock to the abundant beaches, more and more individuals are becoming enthralled by the diversity of plants and animals on the island. As such, sea turtles have the potential to be a flagship species for ecotourism and conservation efforts in Tobago.
The nesting season is typically from mid-March to July. The main sea turtle species which nest in Tobago are the:
- Leatherbacks – The most important nesting beaches span the southwest coast, from Black Rock to Plymouth, but nesting is also reported in lesser numbers along the north and east coasts.
- Hawksbills – Nesting females are sighted sporadically all around the island but in greatest numbers on the small rocky beaches of the north-east coast. There is a significant foraging population found on the reefs of Tobago year-round.
- Green turtles – Sightings of nesting green turtles are on the decline, but there is a significant offshore foraging population found year-round at key offshore sites.
Unfortunately, nesting beaches are not yet protected by law and there is no official funding for patrols. Save Our Sea Turtles (SOS) Tobago, has been spearheading conservation efforts and has managed to develop turtle-watching guidelines which are distributed at the start of each nesting season. They also offer guided tours of nesting beaches. It is hoped that this can be expanded to include offshore field trips and overnight camping trips.