Conservation legislation came early to Bermuda – in 1620 to be exact. Approximately a decade earlier, when the island was first inhabited, sea turtles were abundant and a culinary favourite of early settlers. Unfortunately this led to a dramatic decline in the turtle population. The response was what is believed to be the earliest written conservation legislation: “an Act agaynst the killinge of ouer young tortoyses”. Juvenile turtles were to be protected to halt this worrying decline, referred to as the “decay of the breed of so excellent a fishe”. Islanders were directed not to kill “tortoyses in less than 18 inches in the breadth or diameter”.
It was a good idea, but the turtle population continued to decline and by the late 1700s they had become quite scarce. After the 1930s there was no evidence of turtles nesting here – until 2015, when hatchlings found were believed to have result from translocation projects in 1968 and 1978 from Costa Rica.
One of the first scientific investigations of this species in their juvenile developmental habitat was begun in 1968 by a trustee of the Caribbean Conservation Corporation, Dr H.C. Frick, and is continued today by the Bermuda Turtle Project, a joint initiative of the Sea Turtle Conservatory, Atlantic Turtle Partnership, Bermuda Zoological Society and Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo. Bermuda continues to play a key role in bringing back this early species.