NCC votes for increased turtle protection

| 24/08/2020 | 37 Comments
A turtle was disoriented and fell into a swimming pool (Photo by Janice Blumenthal)

(CNS): A green turtle narrowly escaped poachers in West Bay recently after a member of the public called 911 to report an attempt to steal her away as she came onto the beach to nest. Conservation officers responded quickly and got her back in the sea, and then watched the beach through the night. However, the National Conservation Council (NCC) made two important decisions last week that will add to turtle protection.

Although the Department of Environment has made great strides in the conservation of wild turtles and supporting their ability to nest on all three islands, factors such as thoughtless lighting, over-development and poaching are making it difficult for these endangered species to nest.

But the NCC has now voted to implement an interim directive to protect critical habitat for turtles which will force the Central Planning Authority (CPA) to act on the advice of the DoE on turtle mitigating strategies for beachfront development on designated beaches.

Up till now the DoE could only give its recommendations to the CPA, which could and did ignore them. But with the new interim directive the DoE can direct the CPA to insist that any new project or upgrades are contingent upon the installation of turtle-friendly lighting and vegetation buffers between the developments and the beach.

Four nests in a critical area were damaged by heavy equipment late last year at a Seven Mile Beach development. As well as frequent reports of the disorientation of thousands of baby turtles every season because of inappropriate beachfront lighting, earlier this month the DoE had to rescue an adult turtle that had fallen into a swimming pool at a Seven Mile Beach condominium complex.

The green turtle had become misoriented and lost her way after trying to nest, but residents had called the Turtle Hotline and a rescue was coordinated. The DoE said that misorientation of adult turtles is rare but it can be a serious threat to these endangered animals and adds to the list of reasons why the interim directive is needed now.

The DoE has drafted a full critical habitat plan for turtles but it has not yet been accepted by Cabinet. However, the NCC has the power under the conservation law to adopt an interim protection order, given the mounting dangers posed to these animals during nesting season.

“The threats associated with improper regulation of development on turtle nesting beaches has continued, particularly on Grand Cayman which has the highest volume of development proposals,” DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie explained to the NCC members at a video meeting last week ahead of the vote.

She advised the NCC to issue the interim directive under section 17 of the National Conservation Law because nesting sea turtles, their eggs and hatchlings are in need of immediate protection, particularly from the disturbance of their critical nesting habitat, especially on Grand Cayman.

The NCC unanimously approved the proposal, as well as another important vote to use the Environmental Protection Fund to continue covering the cost of an important anti-poaching CCTV camera in West Bay.

The camera was installed at Sand Hole Road to monitor for turtle poaching last year and proved to be a great success in deterring poachers, collecting evidence of attempts to poach and preventing the need for officers to watch that particular beach constantly. The camera was purchased with donations crowd-funded by a private individual. Given the current situation regarding COVID-19, the individuals involved did not believe it was appropriate to raise cash this year to cover the cost of the live surveillance.

Before this camera was installed there had been multiple poaching attempts but in 2019 no poachers succeeded in taking a turtle in the area. The camera also captured video footage of dogs attacking a turtle there, allowing conservation officers to persuade the owners to keep the dogs inside at night.

Given the success of this camera, DoE Deputy Director Tim Austin told the NCC that money allocated from the EPF for the retrofitting of properties with turtle-friendly lighting had not been used because many properties remained vacant this season due to the health crisis. Therefore, the goal was to reallocate $15,000 to pay for the camera, which the council backed.

The public can support turtle nesting by staying back at least 50 feet from any turtle.

Anyone who sees a turtle in trouble or suspect poachers can call the DoE Turtle Hotline: 938-NEST / 938-6378

or call DoE conservation officers at 916-4271 or 911.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (37)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Sick people. Absolutely barbaric behaviour in this day and age banana republic.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why do “sometimes working” CCTV cameras cost $15000-150,000 in the Cayman Islands and <$500 everywhere else in the world?

    • Anonymous says:

      We seriously need to fire whoever the government Audio/video advisor is.

      Cabelas sells “SpyPoint LINK-MICRO-LTE Cellular Trail Camera” with 0.5sec shutter speed, 80′ motion activation and infra-red field of coverage. Wireless streaming of events via LTE to the app on DoE officer’s phone. These are used by hunters, rangers, wildlife groups, and NGOs all over North/Central/South America, Africa and Asia. If there’s a problem, you replace the unit, and press the on button.

      Battery-powered Unit = USD$99.97
      Solar powered Unit = USD$179.97

      Both with a further Labour Day discount code coming next week.

      They could put these cameras on buoys all over the poaching marine park areas and atop Turtle nest frames for less than the single “Cayman Islands” camera cost in this story, and without the monitored service. We have DoE officers for that.

      • Anonymous says:

        9:54 Don’t you think if these were plausible they would have already thought of them? The camera that was put up at the sand hole is special as it has anti-tamper technology and it has online surveillance 24/7.

        As for your idea about the buoys.. Poachers would just cut the line holding the mooring ball and you can kiss your camera goodbye. plus the loss of the mooring ball and replacing it would cause further problems.

        You couldn’t put them on turtle nests as the DOE cover over all the nests so people cant easily find them. They record the location so they know where they are but not the general public. Putting up frames with a camera would be like putting up a sign saying “turtle eggs here – come and get em!”.

        Only the turtle farm put tape on poles up around their eggs but that is for more PR purposes.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thankfully the turtle farm by good public promotion makes the public more aware of turtles than the government department.

          Had it not been for the turtle farm nests my children and me would have never seen baby turtles hatching and going into the sea.

          Now our love to protect turtles is much greater.

          • Anonymous says:

            1:33 That is unfair. The DOE do allot of education on the turtle program. They go to schools to give talks to the children and can be seen frequently on the beach this year working on the turtle nesting project and talking to people.

            The turtle farm is at the end of the day “a farm”. One that costs the government millions a year to keep running. Money that could be better spent elsewhere. Im glad they were able to get your children interested in turtles but at the end of the day, they are a buisness.

      • Anonymous says:

        (a) 80′ is too short, so up your number of cameras considerably.
        (b) Cabella’s rates that camera 2.3 out of 5 stars. I wouldn’t trust it near to salt water.
        (c) Have to clean the lense of salt spray daily.
        (d) got to pay the data costs for those pictures.

  3. Lawless Caymanus says:

    Lockdown. It works.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I swear we give more care to animals when people are being treated poorly. If I want to go turtling then its my business.

    • Anonymous says:

      And I hope you go to prison .

    • Anonymous says:

      I swear we don’t spend enough on education when people are so blatantly ignorant.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with you 100% 6:19pm, these dummies that come here actually believe if we take from the ocean (to eat) it’s going to deplete the marine life when in all natural fact that big development is what’s causing the depletion, and all it takes is for these empty balloons to watch finding Nemo and then all the bleeding hearts of the world unite.
      Well let me educate you all on a true fact, that this little island can’t manage too much more of the cement and steel and one day the straw that broke the camel’s back will send us all sinking to the bottom of the trench and then the same marine life that you chose to protect for the future generations will be feeding on the last generation, think about that for your future.

      • Anonymous says:

        They’re more concerned with the small man, the small Caymanaian trying to get a fill for his hungry stomach.

        I already said the government here won’t hesitate to throw the bok at the small caymanian for taking one lobster out of season but, they won’t do shit to major develepors who break the law daily and rape our environment.

        Don’t worry. Change soon come. Ppl here aren’t stupid or afraid. Sooner or later a backed up animal goes feral.

        • Anonymous says:


          You do know that people that take 1 lobster out of season probably won’t be prosecuted. However, people don’t really take just 1 do they? No, they take all they can grab and end up decimating the population. For greed. There’s no real reason for anyone here to be hungry, so that’s no excuse.

        • Sharkey says:

          So who exactly are all these ruthless developers?
          Caymanians …you idiot
          Its your own people who are raping the environment, not some innocent accountant from Berlin, stop pretending you are a victim and take responsibility for your children’s future.

      • Anonymous says:

        8.30pm, you understand that two different, unrelated things can be bad at the same time?


      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t agree with turtle poaching but you do make a very good point about overdevelopment. If you are an expat who moved here relatively recently, then you are part of the problem.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oy! Can’t tell me what I can and can’t eat from the ocean. Toddler big brother system.

      • Anonymous says:

        Soon there will be nothing to eat from the ocean. That’s the point you dummy.

        • Anonymous says:

          And according to the many thumbs down, means there sure are alot of dummies here.

        • Anonymous says:

          You can’t kill everything out of the ocean idiot, I mean damn how XXXX ignorant can you people get.
          People been surviving off the ocean since the beginning of time and up to date the marine life is still flourishing.
          Big developers are the only poachers here destroying the ocean by pouring all that cement and steel into it just take a look at all those hotels and condos laced along seven mile beach even their lights causes more deaths for turtles than anyone here eating them.
          Maybe we should all turn to cannibalism, that will definitely be good for the environment.

          • Anonymous says:

            But populations were a lot lower and these fishing boats designed to swoop everything up didn’t exists. You guys are so dumb.

          • Anonymous says:

            “up to date the marine life is still flourishing.”

            You mean there are as many turtles in Cayman waters as when my great grandady had already fished them out and then had to go to the Mosquito Keys (after fishing down the Cuban turtles) to get enough turtles to make it commercially viable?

    • Sharkey says:

      Is it any wonder people are attempting to protect the few remaining turtles, when we have morally bankrupt, intellectually challenged morons like you out there….Don’t you care about your country?

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry your uncontrolled greed and total destruction would kill the last turtle, grouper and all other sea life, then what do we do for seafood?

      Management of natural resources to ensure a sustainable supply for your great grandchildren is what is needed and that is what the NCC and DOE are doing.

      Support them, your great grandchildren will thank you.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Two things need to happen:
    1 – 10 years in Jail for anyone caught poaching turtles.
    2 – HEAVY fines for anyone with non turtle friendly beach lighting.

    • Anonymous says:

      Great that’ll work when people are starving.

      • Anonymous says:

        You live on an island that will feed you if you’re hungry. Why don’t you ask the hundreds of charities on island for help before decimating the wild turtles.

      • Anonymous says:

        Starving? Too many things for us to use our hands to do. We must use our knowledge and intellect to succeed..

  6. Anonymous says:

    And so did the poaches get caught and sent to jail or deported?? Or Fined? Or anything?

    • Hubert says:

      No point having laws to protect turtles if there is no enforcement. Lots of good environmental laws in the Cayman Islands but zero enforcement.

    • Anonymous says:

      DOE can catch them and take them to court but at the end of the day it’s up to the court to issue justice and 9/10 the court just let them go with a slap on the wrist. Don’t get upset at the DOE. They are doing their jobs. We need tougher sentences and for these sentences to actually be applied. As for deporting poachers, most of the poachers are not only repeat offenders but Caymanian. You can’t deport your own people sadly. Signed – a fellow Caymanian.

      • Anonymous says:

        Two men in August 2019 were caught red handed by the police and customs with a bloody shell and a pile of turtle meat. They are on bail with no charges brought.

        Until there is pressure to punish these people hard, they get away with it even when the DoE tries their hardest. One was assaulted last year.

        • Anonymous says:

          “Police said that the two men have been granted bail as the investigation continues and no charges have yet been brought”

          Was RCIPS investigation ever completed to be submitted to the Director of public prosecutions?

          The Director of Public Prosecutions is responsible for all criminal proceedings brought within the Cayman Islands and is the Government’s principal legal adviser on criminal matters.

        • Anonymous says:

          What is there to investigate? They were caught red handed.
          Who is in charge of external and internal police oversight? Isn’t it time to hold them responsible?

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