First sea turtle nests of 2015 found on
Siesta Key and Venice
Mote Marine Laboratory documented the first local sea turtle nest of the year Saturday, April 25, on Siesta Key and the second nest today, April 27, in Venice. Mote will soon begin its 34th year monitoring nesting along 35 miles of local beaches.
The nests arrived before the official start of nesting season, which runs from May 1 – Oct. 31. Throughout nesting season, Mote scientists, interns and more than 300 volunteers in Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol document nesting every day from Longboat Key through Venice.
Both nests 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.
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 were hearing reports of nests along other parts of our coast last week, so we knew it might be just a short time before our turtle ‘girls’ officially started their season,” said Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. “We have our fingers crossed for another strong year like 2014, with a high number of nests and a low incidence of storms, so nests are less likely to be washed out.”
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 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.
“We have a 33-year database of consistent information, which is important not only for understanding nesting-related trends here, but also for contributing to the big picture statewide,” Mazzarella said. “We share our data with state wildlife managers and with others who are looking for independent scientific information about these animals, and we consider public education very important. Sea turtles are endangered and threatened species that have been nesting here for millions of years; we want people to know they’re here and understand how to protect them.”
Mote 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 2,469 nests in 2012, then had a near-record year of 2,461 in 2014. Florida’s loggerhead sea turtle nesting seems to be varying over decade-long cycles of increase and decrease in Florida. 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, carry out this mission by donating online at www.mote.org/support. Select “donate” and choose “Sea Turtle Conservation” from the drop-down box.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization based in Sarasota, Fla., with field stations in eastern Sarasota County, Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Keys. Mote has 24 research programs and a variety of initiatives dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, healthy habitats and natural resources. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is Mote Aquarium, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at mote.org.