Loggerhead turtles lay record number of nests

| 09/03/2022 | 11 Comments

(CNS): 2021 has turned out to be a record-breaking year for the number of loggerhead turtle nests across all three Cayman Islands. When turtle nest monitoring began in 1998, no loggerhead nests were counted on any of the islands and scientists believed the numbers were too low to ever recover.

But 23 years on, 350 nests were recorded, 93 of them on Cayman Brac, where the turtles had a phenomenal season, outstripping the previous record on that island of 55 nests, the Department of Environment said. DoE experts said the number they are seeing in recent years is promising and reflects the results of long-term conservation and better protection of sea turtles in general.

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The 2021 season produced a total of 531 sea turtle nests across the Cayman Islands and more than 40,000 hatchlings made it to the sea. But only one in a thousand makes it to maturity and all sea turtle species are considered critically endangered. An estimated 118 female turtles nested last year, with each mother laying between four and five nests.

Although the loggerheads had a good showing this past season, the number of green turtle nests was much lower than 2020 — just 180 across all three islands in 2021 compared to 345 nests for that species the season before. Meanwhile, there was just one hawksbill nest, which was found on Little Cayman.

The decline in green turtle nest numbers compared to 2020 was not unexpected since both 2019 and 2020 were really high nesting seasons for that species.

Jane Hardwick from the DoE’s turtle team told CNS that turtle mothers do not come back every season but nest every two to three years. She also noted that the storms last year had a negative impact on the nests and many were lost, despite efforts to relocate many of them higher up the beaches.

The much higher number of nests in 2020 was also greatly helped by the COVID lockdowns because there was much less human disturbance to the mating and nesting turtles, as well as to the nests themselves, she explained.

“There was also more willingness from property owners to keep lights out while no tourists were present,” she said, a critical issue in relation to turtle conservation. “We also recorded nesting in two new locations during the 2020 season when the beaches were locked down, one of which was highly likely a result of less human activity on the beach at night.”

In addition to poaching and over-development on Cayman’s beaches, the problem of night lights is a major threat to turtle conservation and possibly the most significant one, even though it can easily be resolved if property owners are willing to use turtle-friendly lighting.

The DoE is hoping to phase in mandatory turtle lighting for all new projects following the interim directive passed last year by the NCC. But Hardwick said that beachfront property owners are increasingly willing to replace their old lights that are dangerous to turtle hatchlings.

She said there was a significant increase this last season in the number of properties with turtle-friendly lighting, which meant that the volunteer turtle watchers could leave more nests to hatch naturally without intervention.

“This year we are continuing to work with properties that are at various stages of retro-fitting lighting and it is so exciting to see this project expand,” Hardwick said. “It still has a long way to go but the positive impact it is having on protecting sea turtles is very clear.”

The new turtle nesting season begins at the start of May, and Hardwick urged people to give turtles space and respect when in the water or on the beach and ensure they are kept in the dark when they come to nest. Property owners are also asked to keep the beachfront clear of furniture and to stack beach chairs at the end of the day to give the turtles a clear run to the sea.

The public is reminded that permits are required for beach fires as these can kill eggs or hatchlings.

People are also asked to report any turtle nesting activity to the hotline 938-NEST so the nests can be plotted. Any suspicious poaching activity should be reported to 911.

Anyone interested in putting in turtle-friendly lighting can email emu.doe@gov.ky

The DoE said that a full report on the 2021 turtle season season will be published shortly.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (11)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    and how many turtles slaughtered under state subsidy at the loss making turtle farm?????
    welcome to wonderland

    • Anonymous says:

      2:06 Just be happy that the wild population had a good year last year. Take time to appreciate the positives. I bet you’re a joy at parties…

      • Anonymous says:

        9:45, 2:06 is probably one of those come lately’s that are here to “save us”.

        • Anonymous says:

          Exactly. Living in gated (mangrove graves) neighborhoods. Now talking about save this and that. Hypocrisy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Best kind for stew.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Let’s see how serious DoE actually is regarding nesting sites. They can start with walking the beach areas near The Tides and make the proerty owners clean up their chairs and such from the sand they want others to believe they own.

    • Anonymous says:

      That stretch of beach is permanently occupied as if the condos own the sands and there are sea walls in place that there is no sand at now, just like 7 mile beach.

      Sorry turtles, people rule the beaches now. Las Tortugas is gone.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Any link maybe with the loggerhead migration pattern going straight across previous cruise line traffic ? 🐢


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