Loggerhead nesting season has begun early | Loop Cayman Islands

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

The Department of Environment (DoE) has reported that Loggerhead nesting season has started early this year, with the first nest spotted on April 1.

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA Fisheries), an adult female Loggerhead turtle tends to lay three to five nests during a nesting season, each nest containing about 100 eggs.

The Loggerhead is considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In total, 9 distinct population segments are under the protection of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, with 4 population segments classified as “threatened” and 5 classified as “endangered.”

The DoE’s Sea Turtle Monitoring programme has been in operation since 1998, when it began conducting systematic annual surveys of Cayman’s beaches to identify signs of turtle nesting. 2021 broke several records, with 350 loggerhead turtle nests recorded by the DoE across the three islands, and with Cayman Brac having a phenomenal season with 93 loggerhead nests, reflecting the ongoing success of the programme.

Numbers of loggerhead nests recorded each year

In 2020, with lockdown and closed beaches, nesting turtles had little to no disturbances on the beaches, resulted in 506 confirmed nests with 156 of these being Loggerhead nests, with 41 of the Loggerhead nests spotted on Cayman Brac.

Towards the end of the season in 2020, a number of tropical storms and passing hurricanes threatened nests, causing more than 30 nests to become inundated with varying impacts to the hatch, and 10 nests were completely washed away due to unpredictable and significant beach erosion during the storm season.

Protection

With respect to Loggerhead protection, NOAA Fisheries notes that beachfront lighting can cause disorientation for new hatchlings, resulting in their crawling inland and toward dangerous roadways rather than ending up in the ocean. For this reason, members of the public in Cayman may notice that lights are sometimes dimmer in places in Cayman where Loggerhead turtles nest.

in the ocean, Loggerheads are threatened by boats, as well as fishermen, who may inadvertently catch the turtles in nets or on hooks, killing or injuring them.

Pollution is an ongoing issue, particularly with respect to the tonnes of plastics dumped into the ocean each year by humans and later discovered by groups like Plastic Free Cayman and Protect Our Future. When loggerhead turtles swallow these plastics, they may face injury or death.

The other threat caused by humans is, of course, consumption– a controversial element of Cayman’s culinary culture.

Coastal development is also a major threat to the turtles. In particular, sea walls put in place near the shoreline may lead to a loss of sand that may be otherwise used for nesting.

Other structures near coastal developments also use lighting that is not turtle friendly. In some cases, lights that are too bright, may discourage turtles from nesting. For those that do nest, their hatchlings face the issue of disorientation, causing them to end up on roadways instead of the ocean.

With time, climate change induced sea level rise may lead to a flooding of turtle nesting areas and increasing temperatures may negatively impact eggs or lead to changes in the marine environment, impacting how and where turtles migrate and nest.

For members of the public who wish to learn more about turtles, including how they are monitored by the DoE, they may telephone DoE at 949-8469 or send an email at [email protected]y or visit the DoE’s website at https://doe.ky/marine/turtles/.