Lighting key to turtle survival

| 28/06/2019 | 22 Comments
Cayman News Service
Green turtle hatchlings on the beach (Photo courtesy of the DoE)

(CNS): The implementation of the right kind of turtle-friendly lighting on all beachfront properties in critical locations around the Cayman Islands will be key to the future survival of the species, according to experts. The Department of Environment begins a public consultation on its science-based species conservation plan next week and among the many strategies to protect all of the turtle species still nesting in our waters, getting beachfront owners to change their lights is one of the most important.

Clamping down on poaching, regulating take, defining and protecting critical habitat as well as more public education and awareness are some of the conservation strategies in the plan. But controlling the type of lighting used in new developments and eventual mandatory replacement of non-friendly turtle lighting on the most important beaches remains a top priority.

Janice Blumenthal, a leading turtle expert with the DoE, told the press Thursday that Cayman is enjoying a trend of increasing nesting numbers, but turtles are still endangered and the nests for green and especially loggerhead turtles remain critically low. While these two species are clinging on, there are only a tiny number of hawksbill turtles nesting in Cayman and leatherbacks are essentially extinct.

As a result, the department has been working for several years in partnership with the National Conservation Council to come up with a species conservation plan based on robust research and science. The DoE has now successfully mapped where turtles are nesting and the levels of density, enabling them to identify the critical beaches where the adult females are laying.

Having mapped out the most important beaches, the DoE is proposing in the plan to mandate turtle-friendly lighting because misorientation of baby turtles is a significant, if not the major, threat to the survival of these iconic marine creatures.

When the tiny turtles hatch and crawl out of their nests, they head for what they think is the ocean based on the brightest light. Once that was the moon reflecting on the sea but today it is lighting outside condos. So every season thousands of baby turtles are killed because they move towards the land and end up in parking lots.

For years the DoE has raised awareness on this issue, pressing home the need for the right lighting on all new developments, and encouraged the replacement of lighting at strategic locations. But there is still not a single beachfront development in Cayman that has actually used safe turtle-friendly lighting throughout the property.

Wendy Williams, the manager of the DoE Environmental Management Unit, spoke of the conflicts that happen with new developments, as she offered an example of one new Seven Mile Beach development where the right type of turtle-friendly lighting was installed close to the beach area, but when the landscapers came in they added a whole range of lights throughout the property that were not at all friendly, defeating the purpose.

In addition to the open public consultation, which begins Tuesday, Williams said the DoE would also speak directly with all beachfront property owners about lighting and the type of amber, long wavelength shielded lights that can keep the properties lit and secure without killing turtles.

See the conservation plan and the maps on the DoE site here.

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Category: Land Habitat, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (22)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Lets ask Dart if he can put an artificial Sun in the sky maybe they will head straight to that and survive.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Did anyone check Governor’s Beach for nests before green lighting the Mounts Bay amphibious landing?

  3. Ron Ebanks says:

    I would think that if properties on the beach where the turtles lay their eggs if they had to do a fix to their lighting for nesting season is all that is needed .
    But about special lighting is not nesecary.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Here is a solution. Stop over developing the island you greedy XXXXX.

    • Anonymous says:

      The only real answer, but people are to messed up to do that. They will give you 1000 reasons why making money is more important than protecting the very place that they live. Greed/fear is very powerful. BTW, even dogs don’t crap in their own beds.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If our government continues on their current path, we’ll be forced to eat turtle soon.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The turtles gets confused between the condo lights and the moon light so instead of heading into the moonlight over the ocean, they wind up in walking into parking lots…. yes of course…

    This is the #1 reason you hear as to why everyone should either shut their lights off or changing their entire lighting system to “save the turtles” (By the way, ironically these are the same people calling for the turtle farm and hatchery to be shutdown)

    So what happens when the moonlight comes from the land?

    When the mood rises off the east, on the west shore, the moonlight is pointing toward the shore not the ocean.

    And when the moon sets, then on the east shore the moon light points to the land, not the ocean.

  7. Anonymous says:

    What about properties that already have NON-friendly turtle lighting??? SO many along South Sound beach.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The trick is to first boil them in the shell.

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