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Naples Florida Weekly Captures Remarkable Nesting Season Records

Rejoice, scientists and environmentalists who study sea turtles and sea turtle enthusiasts in all places. The 2023 sea turtle nesting season in Florida has broken all records for the whole variety of nests laid by the three primary species that nest on Florida shores: loggerhead, green, and leatherback turtles. The all-time high is 212,195, in comparison with the 155,650 last 12 months. The numbers are as of Sept. 30, and the nesting season ends Nov. 1, but only a number of nests are laid in October, in accordance with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Numbers might be finalized at the top of the 12 months.

“So, it was a crazy 12 months,” said Justin Perrault, director of research at Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach in northern Palm Beach County. He was talking about his own 9½-mile stretch of beach, probably the most densely nested loggerhead beaches within the Western hemisphere, which also saw an all-time record. “I mean, we never expected anything like this,” he said.

A sea turtle leaves tracks from a nest on Juno Beach to the ocean after laying a clutch of eggs. His surprise and delight echoed that of others monitoring nesting beaches in Florida that enjoyed similar results. Listed below are the statewide totals:
– Loggerheads — 133,941 (116,765 in 2022)
– Green — 76,543 (37,028 in 2022)
– Leatherback — 1,711 (1,848 in 2022)
– Kemp’s Ridley — 10

Loggerhead and green turtles are listed as threatened. Leatherbacks are endangered. Kemp’s Ridley are critically endangered.

Elated by the numbers, experts stop wanting declaring victory for full sea turtle nesting recovery. While loggerheads, the species that lays the overwhelming majority of nests within the state, had a person record 12 months at 133,941 nests, you can’t conclude the species has recovered, said Simona Ceriani, sea turtle nesting program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “The loggerhead trend may be very unclear,” she said. “So yes, that they had an excellent 12 months. I’m so pleased to see these numbers, but I wouldn’t call victory yet for the loggerhead because they oscillate a lot.”

Relatively, the status of the loggerhead and the leatherback, which had barely fewer nests than in 2022, must be considered stable, she said.

The record total of all of the nests this 12 months was boosted by the huge 106% increase within the variety of green turtle nests. With the leap in growth, Ceriani is tempted but tentative about saying the species has recovered. Once considered almost extinct nearly a century ago, green turtles have seen exponential growth during the last 30 years, Ceriani said, however the numbers have fluctuated greatly. The explanation for each the expansion and the fluctuation continues to be a mystery. “There may be lots of uncertainty,” she said.

Since standardized surveys began in 1989, they showed a biennial high-low nesting pattern. For instance, in 2017, there have been 53,000 green turtle nests. Then in 2018, the number dropped to lower than 5,000 nests. Since about 2020, the high-low pattern looked as if it would have stopped, and the numbers leveled out at concerning the mid-20,000s to mid-30,000s range.

This 12 months, the variety of green turtle nests greater than doubled from 37,028 to 76,543. “The nesting data really suggests we’ve got a really promising outlook supporting the proven fact that it has recovered,” Ceriani said. She and the opposite turtle experts interviewed agree that the success in nesting numbers is basically the cumulative results of conservation measures which have been in place over the previous few a long time. This includes listing the turtles as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, enacted in 1973; nesting beach monitoring, marking, and protecting nests, charting reproductive success; the gill net ban; and the requirement to place turtle exclusion devices in business fishing nets in order that if turtles are caught within the nest, they won’t drown. Laws restricting beach lighting also helped keep hatchlings from getting confused and heading toward the factitious lights of the beach as a substitute of instinctively following the sunshine reflecting on the water from the moon and stars.

Yet, it seems the numbers seen now are only getting back to the numbers that existed before these measures were implemented to stop the decline in nesting and save the turtles from demise. “But in case you look back a long time ago, our numbers now are what they was once previously,” Perrault said. “So, despite all these conservation efforts and these high numbers, we’re still seeing sort of past levels of the turtle populations on the beaches. So there’s not likely evidence of population recovery with the loggerhead despite all these protections. It’s a stable population.”

“Now, the issue potential is that we also need to take a look at the opposite side of the story, which is the hatchling production,” Ceriani said. She’s referring to reproductive success, the share of turtles that truly hatch and are available out of the egg.

In essence, it really doesn’t matter what number of nests are laid. It matters what number of hatchlings hatch and what number of can survive the treacherous trek to the ocean and swim to maturity so that they can reproduce — at about 20 to 30 years old.

“There’s lots of variation from one 12 months to a different 12 months due to many alternative aspects,” Ceriani said of reproductive success. “It depends upon what number of storms we’re getting, after we’re getting them, how dry is the season.” She didn’t wish to comment on 2023 numbers until they dive deeper into the information, she said.

Perrault also couldn’t provide a report on reproductive success on his record 25,018 nests as yet. Of those, 15,670 were loggerheads.

On Captiva Island, there have been a record 299 loggerhead nests, but only 10% hatched, said Kelly Sloan, coastal wildlife director and sea turtle program coordinator for the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.

Each Captiva and Sanibel Island lost a complete of 114 nests due to Hurricane Idalia. At Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, which monitors five miles of Boca Raton beaches, David Anderson, sea turtle conservation coordinator, expects the reproduction success might be 65% to 70%. Last 12 months, only about 55% of the eggs hatched.

“Last 12 months we had a really poor hatch success, and lots of the opposite beaches experienced the identical,” Anderson said. “I feel this 12 months we’ve had a greater hatch success, meaning a bigger number or larger percentage of the eggs hatching, probably due to all of the rainfall we received this summer because when it’s very dry and hot, the eggs will stop to develop.”

Overall, “I feel a vital point to make is that despite these record numbers throughout Florida, we’ve got to do not forget that this 12 months was incredibly warm and we’re actually seeing really, really low reproductive success this 12 months due to those nest temperatures,” Perrault said. “So, despite having, you recognize, 200,000 nests across the state, our reproduction and our hatchling output is definitely going to likely be lower than in years where our nesting may not have been as high because it is that this 12 months. And we’ve got data showing that that’s directly attributable to those temperatures. They’re incubating hotter this 12 months than I’ve ever seen previously in our temperature monitors that we put within the nests.”

Sea turtle researchers from Loggerhead Marinelife Center watch as a turtle returns to the Atlantic Ocean after laying a clutch of eggs along the Juno Beach shore.

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