On the way to the dive boat early one Saturday morning, I came across a newly-hatched green sea turtle that had lost its way in the night. The young hatchling was in the middle of West Bay Road; the car in front of me nearly ran over the little guy. Shocked, I grabbed the hatchling and tucked him safely inside my shirt pocket. After an exhaustive search of the area, I satisfied myself that he was the only hatchling in sight. I made a quick call to the Cayman Islands Department of Environment to alert them of my finding and they asked if I could give the little fellow a ride out beyond the reef, where he would be safe to start his lost years.
So, how did this happen?
After emerging from the sand, hatchlings make their way to the water by following the reflection of the moon off the surface of the sea. This little fellow likely saw a different light, leading him on an adventure that took him into harm’s way. This is precisely why it’s so important for property owners to modify their lights to keep them from illuminating the beach. Unlike so many others, this story has a happy ending. We took the little guy out over the edge of the wall and set him free. As you can see from the video, he was ready to go.
How can we help prevent this from happening in the future?
If you live in an area known for nesting, follow these steps to help these tiny global travelers make their way safely into the sea.
• Turn off lights visible on nesting beaches or use special fixtures to shield the lights from the beach
• Use low-pressure sodium-vapor lighting (LPS) instead of normal lights
• Use Turtle Safe Lighting – these red lights emit a very narrow portion of the visible light spectrum, which is less intrusive to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings
• If you find disoriented hatchlings away from the sea, call local law enforcement
• Tint windows that face the beach
• Close opaque curtains or blinds after dark to cover windows visible from the beach
Guest author Jason Washington is the managing director of iDive Global and the owner of Ambassador Divers, a PADI Five Star facility located at the Comfort Suites Resort on Seven Mile Beach. Living and working on Grand Cayman as an underwater photographer/SCUBA instructor for the past 21 years, Jason’s work has been featured in numerous documentaries and feature films and was a 2017 honoree of International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. Follow him on Instagram here.