The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) last week announced a record year for the number of green sea turtle nests in Florida
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) last week announced a record year for the number of green sea turtle nests in Florida. FWC staff documented approximately 39,000 green sea turtle nests, based on 27 Florida index beaches used to assess nesting trends.
Gov. Rick Scott said, “(The) news is great for Florida and shows that our efforts to conserve Florida’s natural resources are helping the sea turtle population thrive. Florida’s beaches not only attract millions of visitors but are also home to abundant wildlife, like sea turtles, which is why my Securing Florida’s Future budget builds on our past investments and proposes a record $100 million for beach restoration. I am proud of FWC’s hard work to help our wildlife, and look forward to continuing to see record nesting for years to come.”
While area beaches primarily see loggerhead turtles during nesting season, the far more rare green sea turtles arrived this year in encouraging numbers.
On the roughly six miles of St. Joseph Peninsula, 206 nests were reported this year, with 201 of those laid by loggerhead turtles with five green turtle nests.
On Indian Pass, they also reported the arrival of a few green sea turtles.
“We have found that for some reason we see the green turtles in odd-numbered years,” said Jessica Swindall, volunteer coordinator of the St. Joseph Peninsula Turtle Patrol.
“I don’t know why, but they do tend to run in that kind of cycle. We didn’t see any last year and we probably won’t next year. It is just the way it is.”
On Indian Pass, 80 nests were discovered and protected, a handful of which were from green sea turtles.
“It’s been a good year,” said Janna Rinehart, the permit holder for the Indian Pass Turtle Patrol. “We have steadily grown in the number of nests.
“We even had some green sea turtle nests and we are pretty pleased with that.”
The final numbers for the St. Joe Beach/East Bay Turtle Patrol are not yet completed.
The final 2017 sea turtle nesting numbers from the FWC’s more comprehensive Statewide Nesting Beach Survey, covering 800 miles of Florida coastline, will be available in early 2018. Preliminary data, based on the recently completed Index Nesting Beach Survey, indicates the trend for green sea turtle nesting has experienced significant increases over the past 27 years.
“The success of our green sea turtles is a victory for conservation,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “After years of many people and agencies working to conserve this species and its marine habitats, numbers of green sea turtles in our coastal waters and nesting on our beaches have increased substantially. Last year, the green sea turtles that nest on Florida beaches werereclassified from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened’ under the federal Endangered Species Act.”
Nearly 30 years ago, only 464 green sea turtle nests were recorded on the 200 miles of beaches that are part of the Index Nesting Beach Survey. By 2011, the count was up to 10,701 green sea turtle nests; in 2013, it was 25,553 nests; and in 2015, it was about 28,000. The counts on index beaches represent about 68 percent of green sea turtle nests statewide. Green sea turtles nest more abundantly every other year, which contributes to the two-year spikes in their nesting numbers in Florida.
For more information about trends in sea turtle nest counts on Florida beaches, visit MyFWC.com/Research.
Star Editor Tim Croft contributed to this report