Mote Marine Laboratory documented the first local sea turtle nest of the year Saturday, April 30, on Longboat Key. Then Mote found a second nest Sunday on Casey Key and a third nest Monday on Longboat Key.

The first local nest of the season arrived before the official start of nesting season, which runs from May 1 – Oct. 31. Throughout nesting season, Mote scientists, interns and more than 250 volunteers in Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol document nesting every day from Longboat Key through Venice.

Loggerhead sea turtles laid the first three nests of 2016. 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.

Last year, the first nest of the season was found April 25 on Siesta Key.

If you find a nest that you believe has not been documented, call Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at 941-388-4331.

“We started hearing reports of nests along southern parts of our coast last week, so we were expecting our first local nest, and we hope this nest will be the start of another successful nesting season,” said Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program.

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 Mote’s patrol area, marking each nest with yellow stakes and flagging tape.

Mote research has shown that nest numbers have increased locally in recent years. In 2015, the total number of nests (including loggerheads and greens) along Longboat Key through Venice reached 2,475 nests, which beats the 2012 record by 6 nests.

Of those nests, 340 were laid along Longboat Key’s Manatee County side, beating its previous 2013 record of 327 nests; 698 nests were laid along the entirety of Longboat Key, beating its 2013 record of 643 nests; 408 nests were laid along Siesta Key, beating its 1995 record of 343 nests; and a total of 36 green sea turtle nests were laid along the 35-mile stretch of beaches, which broke Mote’s previous record of 30 green turtle nests in 2013.

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, carry out this mission by donating online at Select “donate” and choose “Sea Turtle Conservation” from the drop-down box.

“Now that we have identified our first nest of the season, we strongly urge beachgoers to enjoy our wonderful beaches, but also to be mindful of these sea turtles that are an endangered and threatened species that have been nesting here for millions of years,” Mazzarella said. “We want people to know they’re here and understand how to protect them by being mindful and implementing turtle-friendly practices.”

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 several sea turtles suspected to have been struck by boats, entangled in fishing gear or otherwise affected by human interaction.

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 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.

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.
  • While viewing any large marine animals, follow 10 viewing tips (designed for dolphins, but suitable for other large marine species too). Click here for a PDF.

Emergency contacts

If you see a sick, injured or stranded sea turtle, dolphin or whale in Sarasota or Manatee county waters, contact Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program at 888-345-2335. 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.