Near-record Turtle Nesting Concludes on Longboat through Venice

Beaches from Longboat Key through Venice hosted a near-record number of sea turtle nests in 2014, according to Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program.

Mote thanks the members of the public who have helped keep the beaches dark and clear of obstacles for nesting sea turtles and hatchlings trying to reach the water throughout nesting season, May 1 - Oct. 31.

Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol — a group of scientists, interns and volunteers who monitor 35 miles of local nesting beaches each day of nesting season — report that the 2014 season on Longboat Key through Venice produced: 2,448 nests from loggerhead sea turtles, nine from green sea turtles, two from Kemp’s ridleys and two nests that are being genetically tested to determine the parent species. That adds up to a grand total of 2,461 nests.

This year’s grand total is strong, finishing only 9 nests short of the 33-year record total that Mote documented in 2012. This year, two parts of Mote’s area — Lido and Casey keys — surpassed their individual records.

Nest counts for each sea turtle species by location are listed below. (Counts were updated on Dec. 19.)

 

Loggerhead

Green

Kemp’s ridley

Nests

False Crawls

Nests

False Crawls

Nests

False Crawls

Longboat-Manatee

279

268

1

0

0

0

Longboat-Sarasota

265

258

0

0

0

0

Lido Beach

98

94

0

0

0

0

Siesta Key

281

300

0

1

0

0

Casey Key

1166

1026

8

8

1

0

Venice

359

275

0

0

1

0

Totals

2448

2221

9

9

2

0

 

(Notes: False crawls are cases in which a sea turtle emerges and then returns to sea without laying a nest.
Two nests not listed in the table are being genetically tested to determine parent species.)

“The turtles turned out in great numbers this year, and in some ways the outcome was better than our record year in 2012,” said Kristen Mazzarella, Senior Biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. “While we ended just short of our past record, we think our nests produced more hatchlings than ever before, since we did not have severe storms washing out hundreds of nests like we had in 2012.”

Mazzarella added that several local challenges remain. “Many of our local beaches still offer up obstacle courses to nesting females and hatchlings. Nests have been disturbed by predators like raccoons, armadillos and coyotes, and sometimes turtles have become trapped by beach furniture and other man-made obstructions. Hatchlings throughout our patrol area were still at great risk of disorienting — or losing their way to the sea — because of artificial lighting visible from the beach.”

Female sea turtles and their hatchlings find the water by heading toward the brightest horizon. On a natural beach, the ocean horizon is brighter than the shore. On a developed beach, light from waterfront properties can disorient sea turtles and draw them toward roads, drains, yards, swimming pools and other dangerous locations, exhausting the energy they need for reproduction and survival.

Mote scientists monitor a representative sample of nests through hatch, documenting what percentage of nests have disoriented hatchlings. Percentages for the past five years, by location, are below.

 

Disorientation rates from 2010 - 2014 (through Oct. 1, 2014) by location:

 

2014 (through Oct. 1)

2013

2012

2011

2010

Longboat
(Manatee and Sarasota portions)

30% of hatched nests disoriented

23%

34%

36%

40%

Lido

32%

(Insufficient sample size)

31%

52%

20%

Siesta

20%

(Insufficient sample size)

15%

18%

24%

Casey

3%

3%

6%

6%

5%

Venice

15%

17%

26%

41%

39%

In 2010-2012, percentages were based on monitoring all nests through hatch.
In 2013 and 2014, percentages were based on a representative sample of nests.

Every hatchling matters because all sea turtle species are threatened or endangered, and they are protected by state and federal laws.

Mote has documented local nesting patterns for 33 years, providing data that resource managers can use to understand and protect sea turtle populations. Long-term data — like Mote’s — are particularly important because sea turtles are long-lived species. It takes about 30 years for hatchlings born on our beaches to return to nest as adults.

Help for Hatchlings
With this busy nesting season, the Hatchling Hospital within Mote’s public Aquarium received more than 2,000 hatchlings. More than 200 of those needed to remain in the hospital for a period of time to help recover their strength.

“This was our highest number of patients in the Hatchling Hospital during the past five years,” said Holly West, Sea Turtle Care Coordinator at Mote.

How to Help Sea Turtles

Support sea turtle conservation and research.
Mote scientists are seeking donations of supplies and funding to help support our Sea Turtle Patrol activities as we complete the 2014 season and prepare for another busy year in 2015.
To make a donation, visit www.mote.org/donate, click "Donations" and choose to donate to Mote's operating fund. During the checkout, enter “Sea Turtle Conservation and Research” in the box marked “donor notes.”
To make an in-kind donation of supplies, please contact Kathy Klingensmith at 941-388-4441, ext. 308 or kak@mote.org.

Supplies needed for turtle patrol include:

Black permanent markers from Sharpie
100-foot large measuring tapes with non-metal blades
Paint roller covers, 9-inch and 4-inch (for painting yellow stakes to mark nests)
Flagging tape (for marking nests)
Latex gloves, medium size (for excavating hatched nests to document their contents)
Rubber mallets (for pounding stakes into the sand to mark nests)
Handheld GPS units (for documenting locations of turtle activities)
Digital cameras (for documenting nests and turtle crawls
All-terrain vehicle covers (for ATVs used to patrol beaches)
Yellow paint, 5-gallon cans (for painting stakes to mark nests)
Large tarps (used when painting nest stakes)
WD-40 lubricant (1 gallon)
AAA and AA batteries (for GPS and cameras used to document nests)
Waterproof field notebooks (from “Rite in the Rain” brand)
Red LED headlamps (for monitoring and studying sea turtles at night on the beach – red light does not disturb nesting turtles or hatchlings)

Keep beaches clear for sea turtle hatchlings.
Throughout nesting season, it is important to keep beaches turtle-friendly for hatchlings trying to reach the sea.
Mote encourages coastal residents and visitors to follow these turtle-friendly tips:

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 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.
Place trash in its proper place.

Do Not:
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.

Sea turtles are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, is subject to penalty. If you witness anyone disturbing a turtle or find an injured or disoriented hatchling or adult, please notify agents with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922), the local sheriff’s department, and/or Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Program at 388-4331. If you find a dead or injured sea turtle contact Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program at 988-0212.