Record-Breaking Nesting Season!

Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is reporting record-breaking sea turtle nesting numbers for 2015.  As of Wednesday, August 12, 2015, there have been 15,708 sea turtle nests recorded on the 9.5 miles of beach that LMC monitors. The previous record was 13,173 total sea turtle nests in 2012.

“It is amazing to see such record numbers,” said Dr. Charles Manire, LMC Director of Research & Rehabilitation.  “Although we cannot know for sure, we hope that it is an indication that the populations of both the loggerheads and greens are rebounding due to 30 years of conservation efforts, not just here, but around the world,” he added.

Palm Beach County is home to one of the densest and busiest sea turtle nesting beaches in the United States. So far this season, LMC has recorded over 200 leatherback nests, making this an average year for leatherback sea turtles based upon a five-year average. Loggerheads have also continued to have a strong season, with over 10,000-recorded nests so far.

Research_nest

According to Adrienne McCracken, LMC’s Field Operations Manager, green sea turtles have been a surprise this season for sea turtle surveyors across the state of Florida. Record numbers of green turtle nests have been recorded on both the east and west coast of the state. LMC biologists have recorded nearly 5,000 green sea turtle nests this season. This is 1,000 more nests than recorded for the same date in 2013, which was the previous record-breaking year for greens.

“As a conservation biologist, I am very hopeful that this upward trend in Atlantic sea turtle populations continues for generations to come,” said McCracken. “I believe that this year is only a preview of what is to come in the next 5-10 years,” she added.

IMG_0595

The fascinating part is that nesting season isn’t over yet! There are still two more months to go. The LMC research team continues to stay busy monitoring and conducting excavations of marked sea turtle nests on local beaches. Biologists record all sea turtle crawls along the 9.5 mile survey area with GPS units. A percentage of the nests are marked with wood stakes and monitored during incubation. These marked nests are later evaluated for reproductive success (the number of hatchlings produced). LMC biologists only mark and evaluate a percentage of the sea turtle nests due to the high density of nesting found on the beaches.

So far this season, researchers have marked over 1,000 sea turtle nests. LMC surveyors check each marked nest daily for signs of hatchling emergence, erosion, tampering or predation events. Once an emergence is observed or an incubation period of 70-80 days has occurred, the nest is excavated and evaluated. LMC’s research team uses the reproductive success data from the marked nests to evaluate the beach as a whole. The marked nest excavation data allows biologists to calculate the number of hatchlings produced along LMC’s 9.5 miles of beach each season.

IMG_0592

While sea turtles are beautiful, captivating creatures, it is illegal to harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings. Sea turtles are protected by the US Endangered Species Act of 1972 and Florida Statute Chapter 370.

2 comments

  1. A research piece (perhaps neglected in the ‘equation”
    My wife and I have been working at “Estacion Las Tortugas” in Costa Rica (Mondonguilla Beach, 3k ) for eight years.
    Our numbers of Leatherback Sea Turtles have been holding steady after several years of huge increases.
    We presented at MLC about 6 years ago regarding our work.
    So…Research piece = ? Are projects south of MLC “holding steady” while MLC and sites north are seeing huge increases of Leatherbacks ? I think I remember there were only10-15 Leatherbacks nesting at MLC 7 years ago. True ?
    Might be a result of warmer water ?
    Perhaps Climate change?
    Global Warming ?
    All controversial.

    • Good afternoon Paul,

      Thank you for your comment on our blog post regarding the 2015 nesting season. The Florida Leatherback nesting population continues to increase exponentially. We survey 15.3 km of beach on one of the highest density leatherback nesting beaches in Florida. Some of our nest counts from the past few years:

      2006-99
      2007-241
      2008-117
      2009-340
      2010-190
      2011-278
      2012-287
      2013-123
      2014-268

      IN the state of FLorida – leatherback nesting decreases in density both north and south of Martin and Palm Beach Counties (we are at the northern end of Palm Beach County and Martin is just north of us). Martin county usually hosts a slightly higher density of leatherback nesting than Palm Beach County. The beaches further south of our survey area are very developed and this may a contributing factor to the decrease in nesting density. It could also be lower due to near shore reefs found further south. Leatherbacks may prefer beaches with a deep and open approach.

      We aren’t sure yet why our nesting numbers continue to increase – but it sure is a great trend! I would think that the two main reasons for the leatherbacks increase are the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and enforced fisheries regulations.

      I hope that answers your question.

      Adrienne McCracken
      ______________________
      Field Operations Manager

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