For the first time in several years, the Cayman Turtle Farm has released hatchling turtles – 3 months old and younger – into the North Sound during the annual Pirates’ Week turtle release event.
Nearly 50 green sea turtles raised at the farm were let free into the sound and well more than half of them were hardly bigger than the size of an adult’s palm. Some of the turtles released were older, between one year and 18 months.
In the recent past, Turtle Farm Managing Director Tim Adam said farm officials had made the decision not to release the smaller hatchlings during the yearly event.
“The bigger ones have a better chance of surviving from predators,” Mr. Adam said.
However, this year’s crop of hatchlings at the farm was a bonanza compared with what has occurred in recent years, and Mr. Adam said it was decided to let a few of the younger ones go. This resulted in a turtle release of about 50; compared with the 10 to 15 juvenile turtles normally released during the Pirates Week event.
“We had 2,514 hatchlings this year, it was less than 2,000 last year,” he said. “It’s good news that we’re having that increase.”
Mr. Adam said it was previous policy at the turtle farm to release hatchlings during planned events, but he said that hasn’t happened in recent years.
The turtle farm has attempted, since Mr. Adam began his directorship, to boost breeding efforts.
Prior to the start of last year’s turtle breeding season, farm staff weighed all turtles in the breeding pond, removed nonproductive breeders and added a few new female turtles to the pond in hopes of increasing numbers.
“We have begun feeding the breeders with a feed that has some enhancement to it,” Mr. Adam told the Legislative Assembly in July 2010.
The effects of those efforts have begun to bear fruit, Mr. Adam said on Wednesday.
Turtle birth rates at the farm have decreased steadily over the years. Once there were 20,000 sea turtles at the facility, but that number has recently dwindled to 7,000.
Mr. Adam said part of that decline was due to the turtle farm staff removing all first-generation turtles – those that were captured in the wild – from the breeding pond.