As Cayman’s turtle-nesting season nears the homestretch, the Department of Environment said it has already been one of its busiest to date.
According to new numbers from the DoE, the current tally of turtle nests found in Grand Cayman this year is set to surpass the 406 nests recorded in all three islands in 2018.
“So far, DoE staff, visiting scientists, and volunteers have counted well over 400 nests in Grand Cayman alone,” said DoE marine research officer Janice Blumenthal. “That number will continue to increase until the end of the nesting season, which runs until November or even later.”
The rise in nests has been heartening for the department’s turtle team.
“Nests are left to hatch naturally on the beach, so hatchlings make their own way to the sea,” the DoE told the Cayman Compass on Monday. “It appears that 2019 will be a record year for Grand Cayman nesting numbers.”
Blumenthal said this year’s turtle-nesting season has been one of the department’s busiest in terms of the number of nests in Grand Cayman and public education efforts. These education sessions have included organised field events and presentations for school groups as well as ad hoc presentations to the public while teams are working on the beach.
However, even with those efforts, Blumenthal said the DoE recognises that turtles are still encountering challenges.
“Unfortunately, we’re still seeing problems with poaching and with misorientations from bright lights on the beach, which lead baby turtles away from the sea and toward the road, where they are usually killed,” she said.
Blumenthal urged members of the public to do their best to protect the turtles that come to local shores.
“Although we are seeing many more nests in recent years, it is important to remember that it takes turtles 20-30 years to reach maturity,” she said. “Taking the relatively few adult turtles out of the population through poaching, or losing baby turtles born each year to artificial lighting, will harm the species’ chances of survival in the future.”
On the flipside, the DoE marine research officer said, the public interaction and interest in the turtle team has been positive; 70 volunteers have been working with the department in its turtle-nesting efforts this year.
“Our turtle teams have spoken to more than 1,200 people during nest excavation work this season. That’s the largest number ever,” Blumenthal said. “These impromptu public education sessions are really important to let people know how to treat turtles in the wild and discourage them from digging up nests or interfering with nesting turtles.”