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2019 could be a big year for sea turtle hatchlings, Mote says

A Mote biologist said the record for sea turtle nests in one year was 4,588.

The sea turtle nests along Sarasota County’s coasts are flourishing this season.

Scientists with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program say that this could be a big year for hatchlings.

“We’re on pace to set records this year, said senior biologist Melissa Bernhard. “We already have more nests on the beach than we had all of last season and we’re only about halfway through.”

She says the previous record from 2016 was 4,588 on the 35 miles of beach the group monitors.

The loggerhead females only come out of the water to lay eggs and typically will leave around 100 at a time on the coast.

“She’ll lay about 5 to 7 nests each season that she’s nesting and she nests every two to three years for her entire life, once she reaches maturity,” Bernhard said.

That’s between the ages of 25 to 30 for the turtles. The scientists estimate that only one in 1,000 of those eggs will make it to maturity.

In Sarasota, Bernhard says raccoons are the biggest predators.

Beachgoers can help keep the nests safe.

Remember that sea turtles, sea turtle eggs and nest marking materials are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, is subject to penalty.

Here are some of Mote’s recommendations:

Do: 

  • If you encounter a nesting turtle or hatchlings, remain quiet and observe from a distance.
  • Shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October.
  • Close drapes after dark and put beach furniture far back from the water.
  • Fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water.
  • Bring beach furniture in at night. Nesting females can get stuck under beach furniture.
  • Follow Coast Guard-approved safe boating guidelines and use vigilance to avoid striking sea turtles and other large marine life.
  • Be sure to stow trash and line when under way. Marine debris that accidentally blows overboard or out of a truck can become ingested by or entangled around marine life.
  • Wear polarized sunglasses to better see marine life in your path.

Do Not:

  • Approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles. Hatchlings heading towards the ocean should be left alone.
  • Use flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach.
  • Encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water.
  • Use fireworks on the beach.