Longest turtle nesting season closes with high count

| 21/02/2020 | 11 Comments
A straggler from the last nest of hawksbill turtles this season which hatched on Little Cayman in February (Photo courtesy Department of Environment)

(CNS): After the longest ever recorded turtle nesting season in the Cayman Islands, researchers have confirmed that 675 nests were counted between the discovery of the first nest in April on Grand Cayman to the last found in December in Little Cayman, where the final little hawksbill turtle, Cayman’s rarest nesting turtle, was helped out just this week. This is the second highest count ever recorded by the Department of Environment since it began monitoring nests in 1998, only surpassed in 2017, when there were 689.

DoE staff and volunteers recorded 468 nests on Grand Cayman: 342 green turtles, 125 loggerheads and one hawksbill nest. On Little Cayman they recorded 86 green turtle nests, 65 loggerhead and three hawksbill, for a total of 154. Cayman Brac had the lowest number of nests at 53, five of which were green turtle and 48 loggerhead nests, but no hawksbills laid there at all.

While the numbers are positive, this season will be marked for its length. The nesting season is normally recorded as May to November, but turtles don’t keep calendars and this year they started early and continued through to February.

The good news is tempered by the fact that, as the turtle numbers grow, so do the threats grow, according to Janice Blumenthal, the DoE’s senior researcher and turtle expert, in an email report about this season’s statistics.

The DoE is pressing hard for the implementation of its Turtle Conservation Plan, which has been through public consultation and is now in the hands of Cabinet awaiting approval. The DoE believes this plan will manage artificial lighting in critical nesting habitat, reduce poaching, ban vehicles from the beach and give greater power to the DoE to address other threats.

While a lengthy season and solid nesting numbers are a positive outcome, wild turtles are still very much endangered. But the army of volunteers who help the DoE do the research work and watch and monitor the nests are critical to ongoing conservation efforts.

“We are extremely grateful to the dedicated volunteers across the three islands who have assisted with turtle monitoring this year,” said Blumenthal. “We would never be able to monitor and protect our nesting populations without them.”

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (11)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Why not have the turtle farm raise and release some Hawksbill’s, thereby remedying in time their scarcity in Cayman waters, as indicated by the nesting statistics.

  2. anonymous says:

    Well those numbers will soon be down when they build the fiasco at Beach Bay. They already have heavy equipment there ready to tear everything down even while there’s an appeal pending. They have obviously been given permission to do what they want by the Government who totally ignores the wishes of the people not to mention the law.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can we finally loosen some of the restrictions on Turtling?

    • Anonymous says:

      No. These numbers indicate things are getting better, largely through the excellent efforts of DOE and volunteer personnel. We are yet a far cry from out of the woods, and ALL these species are continually under threat.

      Loosen the restrictions? So we can consume more wild turtles until they are as gone as the whelk? Conservation is long past due. We need to have less of an eye toward our personal desires and a longer look toward the needs of the future.

      Thank you DOE and volunteers!

      • Anonymous says:

        You forgot to mention the Turtle Center (Turtle Farm). If we didn’t have a Turtle Center there wouldn’t have been more turtles. Why do we deny what we see with our own eyes?
        Scientists know that the turtles that have come to our beaches are either 100% or 50% born at the farm. They have also been released at 3-4 months instead of hatchlings. We also know that a very low number of hatchlings make it to maturity. It’s one thing to cheer and applaud that a turtle climbs out of a 3 Ft hole. But they swim by morning across the ocean and see huge frigates scoop them up for food all day long is the reality. Why not release them all after 3-4 months?Then DOE and the volunteers would be really making a difference

  4. Anonymous says:

    Finally, some good news amidst all the doom and gloom. ❤

    • Anonymous says:

      Gonna be a great Easter, yummy!

      • BeaumontZodecloun says:

        Getting your weekend jollies, then? Getting us all riled up? You know what? I’m hoping that is the case, and you’re not really so dense as to believe it is your right to take all the wild turtles until they are all gone. Even (some of) our ancestors had a clue about backing off when numbers ran too low.

        We have a turtle farm. Get your turtle there.

      • Anonymous says:

        Looking forward to some good turtle stew.

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