Credit photo above: Conor Goulding

About Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program

(Nesting updates are below.)

Mote Marine Laboratory's Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program (STCRP) has monitored and studied sea turtle nesting along 35 miles of southwest Florida beaches since 1982. Mote staff and volunteers document nesting activity to support the scientific understanding and conservation of these threatened and endangered reptiles. Mote scientists tag sea turtles for identification and use satellite tags to track their ocean migrations after they leave the nesting beach. In addition, Mote scientists are focused on topics important for species conservation and management, such as sea turtle mating systems.

How to help sea turtles

Weekly sea turtle nest counts

Visit every week to see preliminary counts of new sea turtle nests on Longboat Key through Venice, Florida. A final count will be posted after nesting season is complete on Oct. 31 and data have been reviewed thoroughly. 

COVID-19 Note

Please consult local government websites for more information on potential beach closures. Mote's monitoring of sea turtle nests is vital to monitoring the population of these endangered species, and in accordance with state and local guidelines, Mote will continue its long history of sea turtle patrol on Sarasota-area beaches. All monitoring is conducted with permission from local government to allow access to closed beaches, and Mote sea turtle patrol is conducting all activities with a heightened awareness for social distancing and cleaning procedures. Mote's sea turtle activities are conducted under Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Marine Turtle Permits 027, 054, 070, 048, 028, and 216. See other COVID-19 updates from Mote here

Nesting numbers

About the numbers: Data sheets show counts of new nests by week for 2020, along with a cumulative total for the season so far. Additionally, weekly counts for the same weeks in 2019, 2018, and 2017 are included for comparison. "FC" stands for "false crawl," which means that a female sea turtle crawled onto the beach and returned to the ocean without leaving a nest.

Nest monitoring begins

Check out Conservation Manager and Senior Biologist Melissa Bernhard, as she checks in from the field on the first day of nest monitoring. 

Keep turtles safe!

Tips for turtle-friendly boating, beach lighting & 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. 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. Please also consult all applicable laws and ordinances that may be in your area. Consult FWC's website for information about ordinances that may apply to you. 

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. Do not put hatchlings in water or take them into air conditioning. Hatchlings heading towards the ocean should be left alone. Sea turtles, sea turtle eggs and nesting marking materials are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, is subject to penalty.