Record year for sea turtle nests means more hatchlings on beaches
This week marks the halfway point of sea turtle nesting season and Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program’s (STCRP) 36th year. So far this year, STCRP has documented a record-breaking number of nests from the north end of Longboat Key to Venice – 4,385 loggerhead and 77 green turtle nests. This is an increase of more than 1 percent for loggerheads and 1,183 percent for green sea turtles compared with the entire 2016 nesting season.
“With these significant increases in sea turtle nests it is even more important for beachgoers and local residents to be aware of how their actions could affect our local hatchlings,” said Mote Senior Aquarium Biologist Holly West. “This nesting season, we have already had over 1,200 hatchlings come through Mote’s Hatchling Hospital. The most common reasons for hatchlings to be admitted is disorientation due to artificial lights along the beach and being injured by predators.”
During summer months Mote Aquarium visitors can view sea turtle hatchlings in rehabilitation via an exhibit window in the Hatchling Hospital. These individuals will receive medical care, and when they are deemed healthy, they will be released either on the beach or via boat.
“This is a busy time for Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program," said Mote Senior Biologist Kristen Mazzarella. "The Sea Turtle Patrol has walked the local beaches every morning for the last few months, diligently marking and monitoring nests, and now we are starting to see the evidence of hatches.” When asked how the public can help, Mazzarella replied, “The two most important ways a person can help sea turtle hatchlings is to stay off the beaches at night so you don’t disturb nesting turtles or hatchlings and to shield or turn off lights visible to the beach.”
On the nesting beaches, artificial light from waterfront properties or people with flashlights or cell phone lights can disorient nesting female turtles and their young, which emerge at night and use dim natural light to find the sea. Also, beach furniture, holes, trash and other obstacles can impede sea turtles and their young. Mote encourages coastal residents and visitors to follow the turtle-friendly tips listed below during nesting season, May 1 - Oct. 31.