Turtle release on Governor’s Beach this Saturday

| 13/06/2019
CNS Local Life
Members of the public watch as a released turtle makes it way to the sea (file photo)

(CNS Local Life): The Cayman Turtle Centre is organising a special release tomorrow, Saturday 15 June, on Governor’s Beach to mark World Sea Turtle Day, which falls on Sunday, 16 June. Officials said the nesting season is “off to a good start” as more than 12,000 eggs have been collected at the centre.

All visitors to the centre are able to learn about sea turtles as well as other wildlife in a unique environment that is home to scientific research, conservation, education and distinctive tourism features, stated a press release from the Cayman Turtle Centre.

Dr Walter Mustin, the centre’s chief research and conservation officer, said, “This year’s turtle nesting season is off to a good start. To date we have collected over 12,000 eggs. Our breeding beach at the centre has seen nesting nearly every night for the last six weeks and as many as eight separate nests in one night.”

Noting that “this is an exciting time for the centre”, Mustin pointed to the government endorsing the centre’s Species Conservation Plan for Green Sea Turtle. Centre CEO Tim Adam said of the plan, “The Species Conservation Plan presented to caucus and later presented to Cabinet, was endorsed by the government. Cabinet issued a direction last August to the National Conservation Council to proceed with the steps necessary to adopt and subsequently bring this plan into force.

“This support given by Cabinet of the plan to be adopted under the National Conservation Law makes this a dynamic time for us, and for ongoing beneficial outcomes for our country’s green turtle population.”

Adam added, “World Sea Turtle Day is a notable occasion for us, as a nation and leader in conservation of keystone marine creatures, to finally come together and show the world that our government leadership and agencies across the board are unified in our beliefs and our efforts. The Cayman Islands has a unique set of resources at its disposal for the conservation of marine turtles because our country’s capabilities for this rest on several important pillars.”

CNS Local Life
Youngster gets up close during turtle release (file photo)

One pillar is preserving the habitat for the turtles including suitable nesting beaches, he said, with another augmenting the wild population of sea turtles. “[I]n the Cayman Islands we have the world’s only captive breeding facility for marine turtles now well beyond its second generation, and releases of captive-bred turtles contributed some 90% of Cayman’s present nesting population of green turtles,” Adam explained.

Reducing and eliminating incentives to take turtles from the wild is the third pillar, and enforcing legislation to ensure poaching is not tolerated is the fourth. Another is educating people about the importance of having turtles in the marine environment and what they can do to help conserve turtles, Adam said, adding, “That education is integrated into what we impart to visitors and to the local students we meet, at our centre and at our various turtle tourism outreach events, and it has the additional beneficial effect of helping to protect a wide range of creatures that inhabit the oceans.”

A sixth pillar is ecotourism, especially what is known as turtle tourism, which can have far-reaching positive economic impacts, he explained. “Last but not least, the seventh important pillar…is our ongoing scientific research, which adds significant contributions to the body of knowledge about marine turtles that informs policymaking and wildlife conservation work here and around the world,” Adam noted, adding that adopting the Species Conservation Plan “will provide a solid foundation for these pillars to work well together”.

Renee Howell, the centre’s chief marketing and merchandising officer, said of the plan, “For me, this is an extremely significant time for turtle conservation. It is an amazing opportunity for the Cayman Islands to adopt this carefully written Green Sea Turtle Species Conservation Plan and join the ranks of other nations with a well-laid-out and robust strategy for this important species.”

She added that the centre hopes to see the plan on the next agenda put out by the National Conservation Council, especially with the marking of World Sea Turtle Day this month.

Adam explained that once the green sea turtle plan is adopted under the National Conservation Law, “it will clearly signify that what we are doing at Cayman Turtle Centre is integrated into a very robust, well-thought-out, well-supported, well-documented national plan under the authority of the Cayman Islands Government. The plan will then be fully empowered and in effect it becomes law. This is vital to support, sustain and extend our relationships with industry and research partner entities both locally and overseas.”

Following on from the Green Sea Turtle Species Conservation Plan, the centre intends to put forth plans for the hawksbill and loggerhead marine turtles, tailoring those to the specific and unique requirements of each species, the press release stated. Mustin added, “With the approval and adoption of these plans, Cayman Turtle Conservation and Education Centre will be able to assist with the conservation and educational efforts of all three turtle species that are found in the Cayman Islands.”

The public is invited to watch the turtle release at Governor’s Beach on Saturday, 15 June at 10am

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Category: Environment, Marine Environment

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