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.
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.
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.
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.