Cayman’s turtle nesting season is poised to break another record with 810 nests counted across all three islands in 2023. This number falls just 48 nests short of last year’s record of 858, which was the highest count since the Department of Environment began recording data in 1998.

Jane Hardwick, the manager of the DoE sea turtle programme, reported that as of 21 Aug., there have been 473 green turtle nests, 334 loggerhead nests, and three hawksbill nests documented for the current season. She anticipates that this will be a record-breaking season for sea turtle nests, which continue to be observed until the end of November.

Factors contributing to the increasing nest numbers include 25 years of conservation efforts by the DoE, legislative changes regarding wild turtle collection, and the green turtle captive breeding and release programme by the Cayman Turtle Centre. Favourable weather conditions this hurricane season have also played a role in nest preservation.

Despite these positive trends, challenges persist, such as misorientation and entanglement. Eight nesting female turtles have been rescued from roads and gardens, three from pool decks or pools, and three from entanglement with fishing lines/hooks. Hatchlings have been affected by misorientation due to artificial lighting from properties, impacting over 1,000 hatchlings from 17 nests.

Hardwick encourages beachfront property owners to adopt turtle-friendly lighting to protect nesting and hatching turtles. Warmer temperatures might also be impacting hatch success and the gender ratio of hatchlings. The DoE is collaborating with the University of Exeter on a project to understand climate change’s impact on sea turtles.

Residents are advised to switch to turtle-friendly lighting, remove obstacles like beach chairs, avoid disturbing nesting turtles, and contact the DoE if they encounter hatchlings or nesting turtles in danger. For information on turtle-friendly lighting, email [email protected].