By Charles Duncan
Turtles have started to come home to Cayman for nesting season. Volunteers and officials with the Department of Environment have counted 53 nests so far this year across the islands.
The DOE’s Janice Blumenthal said: “Turtle nesting season 2017 is off to a great start with volunteers patrolling beaches around the three islands searching for turtle nests.”
They have found and marked 36 nests on Grand Cayman, nine on the Brac and eight on Little Cayman. Last year set a recent record for turtle nests with more than 430 nests across the islands, according to the DOE.
Turtle eggs normally take 45 to 50 days to hatch.
Last year the turtle nesting season lasted well into the fall, with the last know nest found on Oct. 30. In 2016, the DOE found 206 nests on Grand Cayman, 33 on the Brac and 90 on Little Cayman.
A turtle laid the first nest of the year on April 1, Ms. Blumenthal said. “Unfortunately many of the hatchlings were misoriented by artificial lights near the nest.”
She explained: “When they 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, where they often die from dehydration, vehicles, or predators.”
Now is the time for beach-front property owners to turn off any lights facing the beach or get some help with making lighting turtle friendly.
In order to help baby turtles get going in the right direction and out to sea, the DOE advises: “Lights on beachfront properties can be directed away from the sea or blocked from reaching the beach and studies have also shown that hatchling turtles are last attracted to lights of certain wavelengths (ambers, yellows and reds).”
Many beach communities in the United States have laws requiring turtle-friendly lighting during nesting season, including the entire state of Florida. The DOE says the U.S. experience with beach lighting to protect turtles means there is a lot of research to show what works and how to do it inexpensively.
“Turtle friendly lighting does not mean that beach front properties must be dark – instead, lights can be directed to illuminate only areas of the property that are used and enjoyed by residents rather than shining inefficiently into the sky and toward the beach.”
The DOE publishes a guide to turtle-friendly lighting online at doe.ky/marine/turtles/turtle-friendly-lighting.