There are fears the fleet of America's Cup catamarans may pose a threat to local sea life in Bermuda.

Conservation groups in Bermuda are rounding up sea turtles on the Great Sound ahead of the regatta opening on May 27.

The incoming fleet of catamarans, which are capable of speeds up to 50 knots, could potentially harm the sea turtles.

To protect their numbers, the local authorities are temporarily relocating them to a purpose-built ocean enclosure near the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.


Their relocation will have a low impact on other species, according to a Bermuda Government press release issued to the Royal Gazette.

A collision with a sea turtle could also have a potentially devastating impact on a team's campaign. Softbank Team Japan skipper Dean Barker told the Royal Gazette last month there were concerns the hard shells of the turtles could seriously damage some of the most expensive items on the multi-million dollar catamarans - their razor-edged foils and rudders.

"We've seen a lot of turtles and other debris out there and we try to avoid them wherever possible. You can't engineer daggerboards or rudders strong enough to withstand hitting something like that. It is a concern."

Collection of the turtles already underway in advance of the America's Cup qualifiers later this month; by July the turtles will be back in the same area where they were originally located.

The operation is being carried out by America's Cup Bermuda (ACBDA), the Ministry of the Environment and relevant environmental organisations.

Mike Winfield, CEO of the ACBDA, said in a statement: "There will be a vastly increased level of marine traffic in the Great Sound in late May and June.

"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."

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 minimising 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."