Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program (STCRP) documented the first local sea turtle nest of the 2024 season on Sunday, April 28, on Venice Beach! This marks the beginning of a crucial period for sea turtle conservation.

At the heart of STCRP’s conservation efforts are the dedicated individuals of the Sea Turtle Patrol. Comprising STCRP staff, interns, and over 300 volunteers, they began monitoring the Sarasota area beaches on April 15th. Their commitment and passion are the driving force behind Mote’s nesting research success.

From April 15 to October 31, the Sea Turtle Patrol conducts daily monitoring throughout the nesting season. Each day, they diligently survey a staggering 35 miles of beaches, from Longboat Key to Venice.

“Even though sea turtle nesting season isn’t officially supposed to start until May 1, we like to be prepared and patrol early to make sure we catch the first signs of nesting on our beaches,” said Melissa Macksey, Senior Biologist and Conservation Manager of STCRP. “Our enthusiastic volunteers and interns make patrolling 35 miles of beaches possible. We could not do it without them. They are the reason we were able to catch this early nest.”

The first nest was laid by a loggerhead sea turtle, a threatened species protected under federal law. Loggerheads are the most common species on southwest Florida nesting 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.

During nesting season, the STCRP documents nesting activities, which allows them to analyze trends, phenological shifts (timing of nesting events in relation to the seasons), nesting density (the number of nests in a given area), emergence success (the number of eggs in a nest that produces live hatchlings that surface), environmental impacts, effects of nest site selection, and more. The STCRP will continue its long-term studies of local sea turtles. Like the last four decades, they will mark each nest with yellow stakes and flagging tape while observing and collecting data.

Mote’s research shows that nest numbers have increased on local beaches in recent years. In 2023, Mote reported 4,284 nests from Longboat Key to Venice.

The public can view Mote’s weekly counts of sea turtle nests within the patrol area at

“Now that we have identified the first nest of the season, we implore beachgoers to be conscious of the sea turtles while enjoying Florida’s unparalleled beaches,” said Macksey. “There are many simple ways to help protect sea turtles and their nests. Hatchlings will have a better chance at surviving if everyone does their part.”


How to protect sea turtles
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, who emerge at night and use dim natural light to find the sea. Beach furniture, trash, and other obstacles can also impede sea turtles and their young.



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.

For more details, please refer to local sea turtle ordinances, including Sarasota County’s marine turtle protection code (which includes Lido, Siesta, Casey, and Manasota Keys), the City of Venice marine turtle protection ordinance, and the Town of Longboat Key marine turtle protection ordinance. An updated Longboat Key ordinance took effect in 2022. For questions about any sea turtle code or ordinance, contact code enforcement staff from each municipality.

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 underway. 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 or your local sheriff’s department.

Sea turtles are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, their eggs and/or nest marking materials is subject to penalty.

Fast facts about Mote’s sea turtle monitoring:

  • Approximately 300 volunteers assist Mote’s team of biologists and interns with daily monitoring of beaches.
  • 35 miles of beaches are monitored from Longboat Key through Venice.
  • 2024 is the 43rd year of monitoring by Mote.
  • In 2023, Mote documented 4,284 nests.
  • The top three years for the number of sea turtle nests in the Sarasota region have occurred in the last 5 years.

Follow weekly nesting numbers at 

Nesting season in this region is officially May 1 – Oct. 31. Please 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.

Sea turtles, sea turtle eggs, and nesting marking materials are protected under state and federal law, and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, is subject to penalty.


About Mote: Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium has a nearly 70-year legacy as an independent, nonprofit, 501(c)3 global marine research and science education institution. Mote began in 1955 and flourished on the foundational pillars of “Passion, Partnership and Philanthropy” –  the passion of a single researcher, Dr. Eugenie Clark, her partnership with the community and philanthropic support, first of the Vanderbilt family, later with the significant support and guidance of the William R. Mote family, and today through donations by thousands of individuals who believe in the mission of Mote.

Today, Mote has grown into eight campuses stretching from Tampa Bay to Key West, with a ninth new campus, the Mote Science Education Aquarium (Mote SEA), currently under construction. Mote has more than 25 diverse world-class research programs studying oceans locally and internationally, with an emphasis on positively impacting conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. The current Mote Aquarium in Sarasota showcases Mote Research and is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 pm, 365 days a year. Learn more at

Contact Us:
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Fla., 34236. 941.388.4441

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