[Updated] In “anticipation of intense boating activity in the Great Sound,” the America’s Cup Bermuda is “coordinating a temporary sea turtle relocation project,” in which “sea turtles will be netted based on methods used successfully for turtle tagging operations and temporarily relocated inside a purpose-built ocean enclosure” near the Aquarium in Flatts.
The statement from the Government said, “In anticipation of intense boating activity in the Great Sound in late May and June 2017, America’s Cup Bermuda [ACBDA], in consultation with the Ministry of the Environment and relevant environmental organisations, is coordinating a temporary sea turtle relocation project.
“The aim of the temporary relocation is to significantly reduce the risk of harm to sea turtles due to the increased volume of marine traffic in the Great Sound over the coming weeks.
“Sea turtles will be netted based on methods used successfully for turtle tagging operations and temporarily relocated inside a purpose-built ocean enclosure near the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo [BAMZ] in Flatts. The area was chosen for its favourable location, depth of seawater, low impact on other species and proximity to expertise in animal husbandry.
“BAMZ will be responsible for caring for the turtles and will follow guidelines for holding sea turtles in captivity. Collection is beginning now in order to minimise the time in captivity. By July the turtles will be back in the same area where they were originally collected.
“ACBDA has worked closely with the Ministry of the Environment, BAMZ and a variety of experts with years of experience in the field in order to facilitate this project.”
Mike Winfield, CEO of the ACBDA said “There will be a vastly increased level of marine traffic in the Great Sound in late May and June. We turned to Bermuda Environmental Consulting, our Environmental advisors, and they have coordinated a multi-agency group bringing in the needed expertise from the Government of Bermuda’s Environmental team for all aspects of this operation.
“We began and continue with the objective of capturing the turtles safely, looking after them during the enhanced traffic volume period and then returning them to their habitats.”
Dr. Ian Walker, Principal Curator of the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo said “The ACBDA came to the scientific community expressing concern about the level of marine traffic in the Great Sound in May and June and asking for assistance in minimizing the risks this could present to marine wildlife.
“Working with local sea turtle experts, the team collectively developed a plan to capture and relocate these animals in late May and June which is expected to reduce the risk to animals while keeping them in a safe and humane manner.
“BAMZ is experienced in caring for sea turtles for long periods both for exhibits and for rehabilitation and we are committed to providing the best care possible for them before returning them back to their natural habitat at the conclusion of the event.”
The Ministry added, “Local boaters will be aware that the numbers of turtles in Bermuda’s near shore waters have increased significantly over the past couple of years. In part this is thanks to successful turtle conservation efforts both locally by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, BAMZ and the Bermuda Zoological Society and others throughout the Greater Caribbean region.
“The boating public is encouraged to assist in the conservation of sea turtles by travelling at slower speeds and strictly observing no wake zones, being on the watch for turtles and encouraging other boaters to also be on the lookout for turtles. If you find an injured or deceased sea turtle call the Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre on 297 1010 or VHF Channels 16 or 27.”
Update: Photos of the enclosure: