The Department of Environment is seeking volunteers in Bodden Town, Rum Point, North Side and East End to search the beaches for turtle tracks and nests.
The project aims to find and preserve the nests of endangered sea turtles after the animals come ashore overnight and deposit eggs.
Marine conservation volunteers will be assigned to walk a section of beach once or twice per week, in their own time, and report their findings to the Department of Environment.
When turtle tracks are sighted and reported, Department of Environment staff will check to determine whether the turtle has laid eggs. If it has, the DOE will triangulate the position of the nest and log the GPS coordinates and then work with property owners and residents in the area to protect the incubating eggs and baby hatchlings.
“The greatest threats to sea turtle nesting populations in the Cayman Islands are illegal take of nesting turtles and misorientation of hatchlings by artificial lights that shine onto nesting beaches,” said Janice Blumenthal, turtle program coordinator at the Department of Environment.
Turtle nesting typically takes place annually from May to October, though nests have been found as early as April 1 and as late as January.
Last year was a record nesting season in Grand Cayman with 305 nests found on the local beaches. On Little Cayman, 89 nests were found, and 36 were found in Cayman Brac.
Ms. Blumenthal said when turtles emerge from their nests, hatchlings look for the brightest light they can see. If this is not the moon and stars reflecting off the ocean’s surface, they go the wrong way, toward the light, and often die from dehydration, from being run over by vehicles, or attacked by predators.
She said the DOE continues to promote turtle-friendly lighting. This involves modifying lights so they meet the needs of beachfront property owners but do not cause hatchling turtles to be misoriented.
The DOE has operated its nesting beach monitoring program since 1998, and according to Ms. Blumenthal, the program is successful because of the many dedicated volunteers. Last year, more than 70 volunteers across the three islands joined the program.
Anyone who wants to volunteer or who finds a turtle nest should call the DoE’s sea turtle hotline at 938-NEST or email [email protected]