Visited Algodoeiro yesterday for the first time since I returned to Sal last month. It made my heart sink to see the construction going on. In 2007, the first year I was here, we saw turtles laying nests right at the back of this beach. Now, with the exception of a few meters of beach at the front, an area that is easily flooded, the beach is so degraded and compacted it would be impossible for a turtle to dig. The fences, ditches, lumps of concrete and construction lights will be a death trap for hatchlings later in the year
In 2008 there were 61 nests laid on this section of beach - 17.6% of all nests on Sal. In 2009 the percentage dropped to an astonishingly low 5%. A decrease in nesting activity of 12.6% in only 12 months. While development might not be the only reason, it is the most obvious contributing factor.
Increases in habitation is a double edged sword - on the one hand it will probably signal the cessation of hunting of turtles in the area, since there is too much risk of being caught, while on the other hand, it will cause more disturbance on the beach with lighting and people, not to mention beach furniture and beach umbrellas limiting the usable area.
Developers can mitigate the effects if they have the will - a few simple steps such as not building too close to the high water mark, turtle friendly lighting and educating residents and guests all help. For our part I envisage a lot more work, every nest in this area will need to be moved this season as the risk of hatchlings becoming disorientated is too great.
In the meantime nesting season is upon us and we have open ditches just waiting for unsuspecting turtles.