Leave the sea turtles alone

| 21/06/2018

I saw people at Public Beach recently pick up a turtle that was trying to come in presumably to lay eggs. Only when I said something to them did they put it down and leave it alone, but the turtle then swam back out and didn’t come back. Would you remind people that live and visit here that should they see turtles on the beach that it is against the law to pet or pick them up?

Cayman National Bank

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Auntie’s answer: I am glad you asked this question. I thought it best to leave the response to an expert, so I checked with Janice Blumenthal, a research officer with the Department of Environment (DoE) whose focus is on sea turtles.

Yes, you are right, of course, that it is against the law to pick up a turtle or, more generally, “to take, disturb or harass a sea turtle in the wild”. The DoE explains on its website: “Disruption of natural behaviours on beaches and at sea can prevent mating, laying eggs, feeding, and resting – threatening turtle populations and reducing the likelihood of potential future encounters.”

Ms Blumenthal cautioned to steer clear of turtles nesting. “One of the most vulnerable stages in a sea turtle’s life cycle is the time she spends on shore laying eggs,” she said. “If you see a turtle on the beach laying eggs at night, maintain a distance of at least 30 feet from the turtle. Do not use flashlights or take flash photos; these will disturb the turtle and may cause her to abandon her nesting attempt.”

A few other warnings: “Do not approach mating turtles. If they are disturbed, they may abandon their mating attempt. Do not disturb feeding or resting turtles of any size. Approach all turtles slowly and move away if they show signs of distress. Never chase, catch or grab turtles.”

The DoE also offers advice on its website on the best way to observe turtles without disturbing them as well as a “Guide to Sea Turtle Encounters”.

Anyone who sees an injured or dead turtle is asked to call the DoE turtle hotline at 938-NEST. And anyone who is observed disturbing a turtle should be reported to the DoE’s chief conservation officer at 916-4271. Otherwise, the department suggests calling 911.

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Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:


    • Anonymous says:

      I do enjoy a good plate of stew turtle with rice and beans and corn bread, oh BTW the green turtle taste the best when butchered the right way.

  2. annonymous says:

    bonfires are against the Law

  3. Anonymous says:

    Check out the Spotts beach….. see what is/has happened there.. swimming with and riding the turtles is a business. Not too many left there. Tourist from all over visit there and think it’s super fun to ride turtles.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps we need a campaign for Turtle friendly lights along the lines of the facebook campaign for disabled parking spots.

    • Anonymous says:

      Turtle friendly beach lighting should be MANDATORY by law! But with our current inept environmental minister we all know there will be no positive news for the environment for the next few years.

  5. Anonymous says:

    And stop making bonfires on the beach. Remember the 30+ that were killed in South Sound a couple of years ago. They were attracted to the heat and walked across the embers that someone left behind with a bit of sand tossed across it to put it out.
    Embers burn for hours…

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why there are no sign? Visitors boast on Trip Advisor about handling turtles. Owners of beach front properties have no idea about existence of “turtle friendly” lights. No one goes on DoE site. Why there are no such simple things as warning signs? If I am mistaken, please correct me by posting a photo of a warning sign.

    • Anonymous says:

      You think signs will help? Have you seen how many people at Starfish Beach and pulling the starfish out of the water, in spite of the big signs posted there saying “don’t”?

      Some people think that the laws doesn’t apply to them and will ignore all signs n the interests of getting the right selfie…

  7. Anonymous says:

    WTAF? The people who interfered with that turtle should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and receive the maximum sentence. Make an example.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Turtles lay eggs at night, and a mature turtle would weigh around 200lbs. Sounds like a fishy story to me.

    • Anonymous says:

      As you say, it probably wasn’t laying, but people shouldn’t get too close to smaller turtles either. They do sometimes get quite close to shore during the day, I saw one today at Governor’s right up in the surf, so it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if this person really did see one close in and people messing with it. Maybe we need to put signs like they have at Spotts up at some of the other beaches, too.