DoE marks 500th wild turtle nest

| 29/09/2020 | 12 Comments
DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie finds 500th turtle nest (Photo courtesy of the DoE)

(CNS): 2020 is a year none of us are likely to forget, and while COVID-19 is indelibly stamped on it, there are some good things to remember too. The Department of Environment’s Turtle Conservation Programme officially recorded the 500th wild sea turtle nest of the season on Tuesday morning, reflecting the efforts of volunteers and organisations committed to helping these endangered species survive and thrive.

In the 1999 season only 23 nests were found on Grand Cayman, but over the next twenty years there was a phenomenal increase in nests numbers. Last year, which is the longest nesting season to date, a total of 675 nests were found across all three islands. Since monitoring began the highest number of nests in any one season was in 2017, when 679 nests were recorded.

In a happy coincidence, the 500th nest for 2020 was found on the stretch of beach that is monitored by DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie. The team celebrated this special event with her and DoE staff member Paul Chin, known as the ‘Turtle Whisperer’.

Ebanks-Petrie, who has stewarded the programme’s development since 1999, spoke about the work over the last two decades that has led to the increase in nests, which is slowly helping to increases the number of these endangered species in the wild.

“It is a pleasure to watch this programme grow under the guidance of the DoE’s Dr Janice Blumenthal, and with the incredible support of the many turtle interns, turtle volunteers, and the Turtle Volunteer Coordinator, Ms Lorri Lam,” the director said in a release.

“As a community, we are all working together to ensure that turtles have a safe coastal environment to nest, that the hatchlings are not disoriented by artificial lighting and can make it to the sea, and that poachers do not kill returning turtles ready to lay their next nest.”

One of the primary threats to turtles is the bright artificial lighting that can lure babies to pools, roads, and certain death. The DoE is currently working with many coastal property owners to replace existing lighting with turtle-friendly lighting, and funding has been secured to assist with retrofitting properties located in critical sea turtle nesting habitats in Grand Cayman.

Last month the National Conservation Council 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.

Visit the DoE website for more information on lighting.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Looks like development doesn’t affect the turtle nesting as much as we thought. If it did why do we have more turtle nesting? I believe with responsible management and the Turtle Farm we have to give its due. Is this happening anywhere else in the Caribbean? Can Cayman’s new service find out? What about our partners on other islands or countries? There has got to be a reason.

  2. BeaumontZodecloun says:

    Well done DOE and the myriad of volunteers on all three islands. Take a bow!

    Listen folks, it doesn’t have to be either/or. I like turtle meat and do a fair job of turtle stew myself. We have the farm, which will provide as much as it can, and I’m glad it continues, because without being subsidised, there would be far more wild turtles killed.

    Thank you DOE and volunteers for helping us all to conserve resources for the future of our fair islands.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree,all of Cayman’s coast line is riddled with heavy development that either scares them away or brings them to their demise.
    I prefer mines stewed with breadfruit and cassava,rice and beans and corn bread.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Some good news, great work from the DOE!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Delicious !

  6. Anonymous says:

    Noting short of a miracle that there any turtles left in cayman.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Another great news!

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