The first sea turtle hatchlings of 2014 emerged this week in the area patrolled by Mote Marine Laboratory, which monitors nesting from Longboat Key through Venice.
The hatched loggerhead sea turtle nest was reported Sunday, June 22, on Longboat Key (Sarasota County side) by Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol — a group of scientists, interns and more than 300 volunteers who monitor sea turtle nesting activity every day of nesting season, May 1-Oct. 31, along 35 miles of local beaches.
Mote scientists say nesting season is going strong and they hope for a healthy number of hatchlings. So far this year, Mote has documented 1,095 nests from loggerheads, the most common sea turtle species nesting in southwest Florida, along with two nests from Kemp’s ridleys, the rarest species on local beaches.
Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program is monitoring local sea turtle nesting for its 33rd year, collecting long-term data that is vital for understanding and protecting these long-lived reptiles. Mote documents each new nest while collecting detailed scientific information about a representative sample of nests, helping to reveal sea turtle population trends and contributing to statewide monitoring efforts.
As part of this research and conservation mission, Mote scientists document and tag sea turtles for identification when they come ashore to nest at night. So far this year, Mote scientists have documented 196 nesting turtles (some were repeat encounters with a single turtle), and documented 91 new individual turtles never before recorded on local beaches. Also this year, Mote scientists have documented two turtles they first ID-tagged in 1987.
Beachgoers should report any sea turtles nesting during the daytime to Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at 941-388-4331. Rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtles normally nest during the day, while loggerheads and greens usually nest at night.
Sea Turtle Tips for the Public: Boating, Beach Lighting and More
During nesting season, it is important to keep local waters and beaches sea-turtle friendly.
Sea turtles are swimming just offshore to mate before the females come ashore to nest, juvenile turtles are feeding along the Gulf Coast, and by early summer the first hatchlings will venture into Gulf waters. So far this year, Mote has recovered multiple sea turtles suspected to have been struck by boats.
On the nesting beaches, light from waterfront properties can disorient nesting female turtles and their young, which emerge at night and use dim natural light to find the sea. Also, beach furniture, trash and other obstacles can impede sea turtles and their young. Mote volunteers recently freed a sea turtle trapped under a beach chair (story here).
Mote encourages coastal residents and visitors to follow the turtle-friendly tips below during nesting season, May 1 - Oct. 31.
On the Shore
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 stack beach furniture at the dune line or, ideally, remove it from the beach
Fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water
Approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles
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
On the Water
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.
If you see a sick, injured or stranded sea turtle in Sarasota or Manatee county waters, contact Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program at 941-988-0212. Outside of Sarasota or Manatee counties, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
If you suspect that someone is tampering with a sea turtle nest, harassing a sea turtle or has possession of a sea turtle or any of its parts, please call FWC, call your local sheriff’s department and/or call Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at 941-388-4331.
If you find sea turtle hatchlings that are not on the beach or are headed away from the ocean, call Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program for instructions. Put rescued hatchlings into a bucket with a layer of damp sand and cover the bucket with a towel. Do not put hatchlings in water or take them into air conditioning. Hatchlings heading towards the ocean should be left alone.
Sea turtles are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, is subject to penalty.