Turtle hatchlings threatened by lights and fire

| 07/06/2017 | 17 Comments

(CNS): As Cayman moves into the wild turtle nesting season and hopes are high that numbers will continue on the upward trend, the Department of Environment is urging people not to light fires on the beach. Not only are beach bonfires illegal without a permit, they also pose a real danger to the young hatchlings. Researchers raised concerns that they are seeing a lot of remnants of bonfires around areas where they expect turtles are nesting. This adds to the list of many challenges in the fight to protect the endangered marine animals.

Another major threat is lighting along beachfront homes.

Owners are urged every season to keep the outside lights on their homes that are facing the sea dimmed, but not everyone is taking the requests on board and lights are still confusing the baby turtles, who head towards the lights instead of the sea when they hatch. This means that they die from dehydration, exhaustion, or are run over by cars.  The DoE has information on its website about turtle friendly lighting here.

In recent years there has been a dramatic and encouraging increase in sea turtle nesting numbers. But with more nests now on developed beaches, the threats to turtles have also increased, making the continued recovery and survival of the nesting population in the Cayman Islands uncertain.

Illegal take also continues to be one of the most serious threats, with several adult turtles taken each season when they come up to nest, which has a tremendous impact on an already critically small nesting group. The other threat is people driving on the beach during the nesting season, as the weight of vehicles can crush emerging hatchlings and eggs.

For more information visit the DoE website here.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (17)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Of course the best response to pass laws such as those in Florida restricting beach lighting. But in a nation where the voting section of the public see a hatchling as an amuse-bouche, decent protection is never going to happen.

  2. Anonymous says:

    At North Pointe there were lights similar to these:


    They just painted out the half facing the sea.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Home owners should be “urged” to dim their lights! They should be made to dim their lights by law and fined if they fail to comply! Try lighting up your beach with flood lights in Florida during nesting season and see what happens!

    Cayman needs to get serious about protecting our environment… After all the natural environment is the reason people come on holiday here!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Should *NOT* be “urged”

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s OK. Whogene is on the case. Lights haven’t been on there for a looonnnnng time.

      • Anonymous says:

        Interesting because I saw them on just last night. Brightly lit showing me the way. Must have been a different house you’re talking about.

    • CaymanMadam says:

      Absolutely! ONLY turtle friendly lights should be allowed on beaches.

      • Anonymous says:

        Please elaborate on what “turtle friendly lighting is”, exactly.

        The general public need a serious lesson on how to protect the environment properly….

        CNS: The DoE answered this below but I have posted their response as a Featured Comment (see here) because, as you say, people need to know this.

  4. Anonymous says:

    In the US most states with turtle nesting beaches require turtle safe lighting. But these same people come to Cayman, buy condos on the beach and refuse to dim the compound lights. Why? Because it’s the “islands” and they can do as they please.

    • Anonymous says:

      So why doesn’t Cayman have a law?

    • Crackerjack box degree says:

      Unfortunately in today’s Cayman it is considerably safer to have a well lit property. I’m sure many property owners are keeping their lights on to deter two-legged predators from targeting their homes.

      This is unfortunate for the turtles.

      • Anonymous says:

        Turtles come first!

      • We appreciate the need for security and fortunately studies show that turtle friendly lighting does not compromise security and safety.

        Turtle friendly lighting does not mean that beach front properties must be dark – instead, lights can be directed to illuminate only areas of the property that are used and enjoyed by residents rather than shining inefficiently into the sky and toward the beach. Many turtle friendly lighting options will not be apparent to residents, while others are visually appealing – for example, amber lights do not impact turtles and are often likened to candlelight. Other cost effective and flexible options for turtle friendly lighting include planting vegetation such as hedges in front of lights, lowering and shielding lights, and putting security lights on motion detectors. As turtle friendly lighting is now a legal requirement in Florida and other US states, these methods are tried and true.

        Indeed, overly bright non-turtle friendly lighting creates a sharp contrast between lighted and dark areas, making non-illuminated areas nearly impossible to see. Permanent lighting also provides illumination which allows criminals to see what they are doing, and it does not provide an alert when intruders enter a property. Turtle friendly options – such as installing motion detectors or forcing trespassers to use flashlights – draw more attention and thus reduce crime.

        Turtle friendly lighting is a win-win solution for turtles and beachfront property owners. Not only does turtle friendly lighting protect sea turtles, but it may dramatically reduce energy costs and it benefits residents and visitors when sea turtle nesting at a property increases (as it often does after retrofitting with turtle friendly lighting). The DoE has published a document entitled ‘Turtle Lighting: Advice & Guidelines’, which is available on our website at http://doe.ky/marine/turtles/turtle-friendly-lighting/ or please contact us at doe@gov.ky for more information.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thanks for the info DoE. It would be good if Captain (Whogene) Planet could make your advice and guidelines the law!

          Also, can we please now refer to the good captain as Captain Planet from here on? Thanks!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Lights are the least of the baby turtles problems. There are bigger problems such as the destruction of their environment. We won’t have to worry about turtle hatchlings making their way across the beach if there isn’t any beach left.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yep…beach cleanup the other day…drug paraphernalia everywhere, old chairs, rubbish in the sea, bottles, plastic bags…cayman so cares about its natural beauty and wildlife… Sort it out you filthy pigs, take your litter home and put it in the trash.

      • Expat Andy says:

        People at their best when we clean up the beach.

        Quite a bit is dropped on our beaches locally but a tremendous amount of rubbish also just washes up from the sea.

        It is a never ending battle.

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