Florida's 2023 nesting season appears to be off to an exceptional start, bringing hope and excitement for conservationists and nature enthusiasts. According to preliminary data shared by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Research Institute as of April 30th, the statewide nest totals are already showing promising numbers.
Loggerhead turtles, a threatened species, have recorded a remarkable 1,288 nests this season so far — just over double last year's count of 640. This increase in nesting activity is a positive sign for the recovery of loggerheads, which have faced various challenges due to both habitat loss and human activities.
Green turtles, another species of sea turtle, have laid three nests so far this season, an increase compared to just one nest reported in the previous year. These turtles, listed as endangered, play a crucial role in maintaining the health and diversity of marine ecosystems.
Leatherback turtles, known for their impressive size and distinct speckled shell, have recorded 608 nests this season. Although this number is lower than the 800 nests recorded in 2022, it is still an encouraging figure for the conservation of this critically endangered species for being so early into nesting season.
Kemp's Ridley turtles, the smallest and most critically endangered of the sea turtle species, have laid six nests this year — a significant improvement from the single nest recorded in 2022.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) acknowledges the dedicated efforts of its partners and the community in documenting sea turtle nesting activity statewide. This collaborative community effort is crucial for gathering data and ensuring the well-being of sea turtles.
While you're entitled to enjoy the sights of sea turtles and their nests from afar, Florida law prohibits the take, possession, disturbance, mutilation, destruction, selling, transference, molestation, and harassment of marine turtles and their nests. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), failure to follow the law can result in fines, and even arrest.
"Remember, sea turtles are protected by law. Keep your distance and give sea turtles space if you see one on the beach: Never touch a nesting turtle because it might leave the beach without nesting if disturbed," a post by the FWC notes.
Sea turtle nesting season will run through October 31. When visiting Florida beaches during this time, keep your eyes on the sands not only for the sea turtle's safety but for your own enjoyment of the Sunshine State's waterfront and wildlife as well.
The FWRI ask visitors and residents alike to assist in the conservation efforts of these critically endangered animals by keeping their beaches dark and free of any lights not necessary for human safety after sunset, refraining from photographing them using flash or bright cellphones, filling any holes left in the sand, and keeping beaches clear of debris such as furniture, boats, and toys that could potentially obstruct the path of hatched and meandering turtles.
By taking action and staying informed, we can all contribute to the protection and preservation of these magnificent creatures during their nesting season and beyond. To further support sea turtle conservation, individuals are urged to report any sightings of sick, injured, dead, entangled, or endangered sea turtles to the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.
A Florida community recently worked together to remove thousands of pounds of invasive fish from local waterways; you can read the full story here.
Did you know that you could win prizes and a free t-shirt for catching invasive fish in Florida this June? Learn about the 2023 Lionfish Challenge here.
Article by Rachael Volpe