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Annual Turtle Release Goes ‘Swimmingly’

Local News 19 Jun, 2024 Follow News

A Green Sea Turtle instinctively finds its way into the ocean.

Tourism Minister, the Honourable Kenneth Bryan is assisted with releasing a turtle by a guest at the (CTCEC) Annual Turtle Release.

Tourism Minister, the Honourabel Kenneth Bryan gives his remarks before releasing three Green Sea turtles at the (CTCEC) Annual turtle release.

(CTCEC) staff with two of the turtles that were released on Friday, 14th June at the Governor’s Beach.

Young Penelope was excited to see the release

By Stuart Wilson

The Cayman Turtle and Conservation and Education Center (CTCEC) staged its Annual Turtle Release on the Governor’s Beach, along the Seven Mile Beach on the West Bay Road on Friday, 14th June to a throng of onlookers, who gathered for the event.

This year marks the release of over 36,000 turtles into the wild by the programme, which was stared in the 1960’s, with over 90 percent of turtles in the wild being related turtles from the programme.

Shona McGill, Education Programmes Officer and Turtle Release Coordinator at the Cayman Turtle Centre noted, “June 16th is considered World Sea Turtle Day around the world, so this is when we raise awareness of the conservation of the species, just how important they are to the marine environment. Green Sea Turtles are really important because they are keystone species…think of that how you lose the game of Jenga: you pull out a block and that makes everything fall apart. That block is the keystone species.”

Green Sea Turtles are one of the largest marine herbivores and are considered as the lawnmowers of the ocean, eating seagrass beds to help keep healthy nursery habitats for crustaceans like lobsters and shrimp, protecting us from storm surges and hurricanes, and then also protecting our coral reefs, because where algae grow on coral, it starts to smother them. So, green sea turtles graze on this algae and keep our coral reefs healthy.

“They were actually considered functionally extinct here which means there wasn’t enough in the wild to sustain the population. So, we started our release programmes in the 1980s and have seen lots of success. We’ve release over 30,000 green sea turtles and about 90% of the wild nesting turtles that lay eggs in Cayman are related to our turtles at the Turtle Centre,” said Mrs. McGill.

Minister for Tourism, the Honourable Kenneth Bryan told the onlookers that the fact that the turtle release takes place at Governor’s Beach each year was and the site was protected as the place where the turtles return to hatch their young meant that it would be protected in perpetuity.

Green sea turtles return to the beach where they were hatched or released for their entire lives.

“Events such as this are so important for awareness, information and education. Without it we cannot do the protections necessary and take the sustainable approach because we have to do this together,” said Minister Bryan.

He added that it cannot be just a government effort but one that should involve the community.

“Poaching is a reality. If you educate and inform, the next generation will build policies, legislation and a culture of protection, so this is why it’s important.

“Not only that; these releases, allow the turtles to come back and continue laying in the Cayman Islands, so it’s mutually beneficial. And it’s a great feeling. The release back into the wild is what nature asks us to do. Our guests and visitors who are here today love to see what Cayman is all about because there has been a lot of misconceptions about the Turtle Centre and the more we do, they start to understand it’s about education and preservation.”

Mr. Bryan said, “If you go back in history, there have been a number of mature turtles that have been released from this location. So, unlike any other location along the beach that does it in its own natural way, at this one there has been a concerted effort, so it would be fair to assume that this beach will for ever and ever have turtles coming back here. I think that it’s good for us as a society to acknowledge this because it’s not protected in that manner right now, it’s protected from a public beach location and it’s right next to her Excellency the Governor’s home, but at least maybe we should keep that in mind if, God forbid, any other administration tries to do something else, that we know that we have to protect this beach because of what it means for our turtle population preservation and sustainability.”

The turtles released on Friday were named Shelly and Martha, with a third turtle being named by one of the spectators. They each weighed between 40 and 60 pounds.


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