2014 Weekly Nesting Summaries

The first sea turtle nests of 2014 have been recorded, including a report that a Kemp's ridley sea turtle — the rarest of all sea turtle species — nested on a Venice Beach.

Throughout nesting season — May 1 - Oct. 31 — Mote scientists, interns and more than 300 volunteers in Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol document nesting every day from Longboat Key through Venice. This year marks Mote's 33rd year of nest monitoring along 35 miles of local beaches.

The first nests in Mote's area were found May 6, on Longboat and Casey keys and were laid by loggerhead sea turtles. Loggerheads, considered threatened under federal law, are the most common species on local beaches, followed by endangered green sea turtles. In recent years, Sarasota County has also hosted a handful of endangered Kemp’s ridleys, among the smallest and rarest sea turtles.

“We’re not too surprised that the turtles here got a slower start this year — nesting is influenced by water temperature, and the waters along our coasts have been cool lately,” said Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program.
“We’re starting this season on an optimistic note,” Mazzarella added. “We’ve had some very strong nest numbers in recent years, both in Mote’s patrol area and other parts of the state, and we’re excited to collect more data to see how this year stacks up.”

This year, Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program will continue its long-term studies of local sea turtles by documenting every sea turtle nest and false crawl (when a turtle emerges but does not leave a nest) in our patrol area, marking each nest with yellow stakes and flagging tape and collecting scientific data about each nest when it is found. Mote will also collect detailed scientific data on a representative sample of nests through their hatch, allowing us to document local trends in nest success as part of the sea turtle conservation and research mission Mote has carried out for more than three decades.

This research has shown that loggerhead sea turtle nest numbers have increased locally in recent years. After reaching a low point of 735 nests in 2007, loggerhead nesting in Mote’s patrol area broke records with 2,462 nests in 2012, then had a near-record year of 2,247 in 2013. Florida’s loggerhead sea turtle nesting seems to be varying over decade-long cycles of increase and decrease. Continuing to gather local nesting data is vital for documenting population trends in sea turtles — long lived species that can take 30 years to mature.

During this time of increased local nesting, it is critically important that the public supports sea turtle research and conservation. The public can help Mote, a nonprofit, continue its long term efforts on local beaches by making a donation at www.mote.org/donate.

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 encourages coastal residents and visitors to follow the turtle-friendly tips below during nesting season, May 1 - Oct. 31.

On the Shore

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

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
     

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

Emergency Contacts

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.