About the Refuge


The refuge was established in 1984 when 340 acres were purchased from the West Indies Investment Company. The land was purchased specifically to protect nesting habitat of endangered leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea). An additional 43 acres have been acquired since that time to protect the Aklis pre-historic archaeological site and a stand of the endangered Vahl’s boxwood tree (Buxus vahlii).


Sandy Point NWR provides crucial nesting habitat for three species of federally threatened and endangered sea turtles. The leatherback sea turtle and the hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) are federally listed as endangered, and the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) is federally listed as threatened. These three sea turtle species are also protected under Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands regulations.


The federally endangered leatherback sea turtle is the largest sea turtle species in the world, and the largest nesting population within U.S. jurisdiction occurs at Sandy Point NWR. The leatherback sea turtle recovery program began on Sandy Point with tagging efforts in 1977, and has since developed into one of the most unique, long-term sea turtle research and recovery efforts in the world. The program is the result of cooperative efforts between partnering agencies, researchers, nongovernmental organizations, and volunteers. This work resulted in the establishment of the refuge, which has enabled the nesting leatherback sea turtle population to recover and grow consistently over the last 27 years, and a scientific database that has documented this population growth. This unique database is critical for leatherback sea turtle population recovery world-wide.