Known for its beaches and vacationers, the Cayman Islands also gained fame in the conservation world for their sea turtles.
In the distant past, their numbers were likely in the millions. This is because the Cayman Islands boast some of the best sea turtle habitat in the world. But by the 1800s, their population almost entirely collapsed due to overexploitation.
Fortunately, sea turtles are making a comeback. As reported in the journal Science Daily:
“The new study shows that, despite reaching critically low levels, nesting populations of green and loggerhead turtles have recovered significantly.
“Monitoring from 1998-2019 shows loggerhead and green turtle nest numbers increased dramatically….in the first counts in 1998-99, just 39 sea turtle nests were found in total on the three islands. By 2019, the figure was 675.”
Wildlife officials credit a combination of factors contributing to this success story. Captive breeding at the Cayman Turtle Farm likely helped boost numbers, as did a tightening of restrictions on certain fishing on the Islands in 2008. In addition, patrols cracking down on illegal harvesting have proven an effective deterrent to would-be poachers. Officials hope other initiatives, like “turtle friendly” lighting on beaches, will also aid these efforts.
Although sea turtle numbers are moving upward, the species is still not out of the water in terms of achieving full recovery. Because they are a highly migratory species, sea turtles face threats in other parts of the ocean away from the Cayman Islands. Conservationists hope international efforts will also play a role in one day resuscitating the animals back to healthy numbers.
To read the story in its entirety on Science Daily, click here.