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Little Cayman Turtle Project

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  • Potter at Island Resources
    [Thought members of the lists would be interested in this page at http://www.seaturtle.org/mtrg/projects/cayman/ bp] Little Cayman Turtle Project ...
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2 8:13 AM
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      [Thought members of the lists would be interested in this page at


      Little Cayman Turtle Project


      Historical OverviewFrom Columbus's discovery of the Cayman Islands in
      1503 to the late 1700s marine turtles were found in abundance in
      Cayman's waters and nesting on its beaches. The valuable source of
      fresh meat brought seafarers of all types: from pirates to great sea
      captains. Realizing this economic potential, settlers in the mid
      1600s came to capture and sell turtles to passing vessels, thus
      starting the local turtle industry.

      The historically abundant marine turtle population withstood the
      intensive fishing pressure for over a hundred years. Around the late
      seventeen to early eighteen hundreds the local turtle stock
      collapsed. The Caymanian turtlers sailed first to Cuba then to the
      Miskito Cays, off the Nicaraguan coast, to continue their trade.
      Turtling remained the leading industry in the islands until the late
      1960's when it was replaced by tourism. The historic socioeconomic
      importance of marine turtles in the Cayman Islands is recognized in
      the national emblem, flag and currency.


      Even though the large populations of marine turtles can no longer be
      found in the Cayman Islands a remnant of this population still
      exists. Little scientific research has been done to assess the wild
      stocks of marine turtles utilizing Cayman waters and beaches. The
      Little Cayman Turtle Project was initiated with the aim to assess and
      clarify, for the first time, the status of marine turtles nesting on
      the beaches and inhabiting the coastal waters of Little Cayman. This
      initiative was undertaken by staff from the Cayman Islands Department
      of Environment, local volunteers in collaboration with the Marine
      Turtle Research Group, thanks to support from the Foreign and
      Commonwealth Office.


      Planning and Training

      The phases and course of the Little Cayman Turtle Project have been
      developed in close collaboration with Drs. Brendan Godley and Annette
      Broderick of the UK-based Marine Turtle Research Group. Dr. Godley
      and Dr. Broderick spent approximately 3 weeks (May 11th - May 29th
      1998) in the Cayman Islands assisting with the planning and
      implementation of the project. During the initial phases, 12
      Department of Environment staff received extensive training in many
      aspects of turtle research and assessment. The Department of
      Environment staff has gone on to train local Marine Park Officers and
      volunteers, all of whom assisted in the research conducted in Little

      Marine Turtle Nesting Activity

      An extensive beach survey was conducted to locate and quantify all
      marine turtle nesting activity on Little Cayman. Preliminary
      investigation of Little Cayman's 37 km coastline, 21 km contained
      suitable beach for marine turtle nesting . During the 1998
      reproductive season in Little Cayman 38 marine turtle emergence
      events were observed leading to estimate of estimated 6 green turtles
      (Chelonia mydas), 1 hawksbill turtle (Eretmolchelys imbricata) and 1
      loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) nesting.


      Threats to marine turtle nesting activity include poaching of adult
      females and eggs, and hatchling predation by feral cats, ghost crabs
      (Ocypode quadrata), magnificent frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens),
      and numerous coral reef fish species. Coastal development is
      currently limited to a few private homes and small commerical beach
      developements. However, plans to build a small to medium size resort
      on a potential marine turtle nesting beach on the north coast of
      Little Cayman does exist.

      Preliminary Boat and Snorkel Surveys
      Three different types of preliminary boat and snorkel surveys were
      conducted to find an efficient and accurate means for assessing
      marine turtle in-water distribution and abundance. These data are
      currently undergoing analysis.

      Public Reporting Survey

      The goal of the public reporting survey was to increase the general
      publics' awareness of Cayman's marine turtle population and utilize
      the vast source of volunteer divers to provide useful qualitative
      information to the research team. One hundred and seventy-five marine
      turtle observations were reported from May to November of 1998.

      More information:

      A report is available summarising the work of the 1998 season and the
      work has since been continued and expanded in scope. For additional
      information, please look us up at www.bcbmedia.com/turtles or contact:

      Catherine Bell
      Cayman Islands Turtle Project Coordinator
      Department of Environment
      P.O. Box 486GT
      Cayman Islands
      Island Resources, the Virgin Islands and Washington
      For fastest mail service: 1718 "P" St NW # T-4, Washington, DC 20036
      Fone 202/265-9712 fax 202/232-0748; E-mail: <bpotter@...>
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