2017 Sea Turtle Nesting Season Sets New Records - Numbers Up Despite Active Hurricane Season

Author:  Stephanie Kedzuf, Natural Resource Specialist
BROWARD COUNTY, FL - Natural disasters couldn't stop the sea turtles in Broward this year. The Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program documented a total of 3,587 nests in 2017, which surpassed the previous record of 3,567 nests set in 2016. This increase in nesting is largely a reflection of the increase in green turtle nesting activity, nearly twice the historic average. The County began monitoring Broward beaches for sea turtle nests in 1981, and local nesting numbers have been steadily increasing. Sea turtle nesting season runs from March 1st - October 31st annually.

turtle eggs2017 nesting by species:

Loggerheads (Caretta caretta) laid 2,898 nests
-Slightly above the five-year average of 2,875 nests per season
-502 fewer nests than 2016 (record year)

Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) laid 665 nests
-A record year for the species
- 170 more nests laid than the previous record year (2013)
-Above the five-year average of 378 nests per season -528 more nests than 2016

Leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea) laid 12 nests
-Below the five-year average of 26 nests per season
-15 fewer nests than 2016

12 additional nests were laid, but the species were unconfirmed.

Hurricane Irma struck Florida in September 2017, bringing storm surge and lots of rainfall. While sea turtles have overcome hurricanes for millions of years, a storm of Irma's magnitude had the potential to destroy a high percentage of viable nests. Fortunately, the storm occurred late in the nesting season with only about 700 nests remaining on Broward's beaches. About half of these nests were deemed "lost" due to Irma's impacts, and the remaining nests were either reestablished by County surveyors or untouched by the storm waves. Like Hurricane Irma, the King Tide events that impacted the County's beaches late in the nesting season resulted in just a small number of nests lost.

The increase in local nesting is a sign of optimism for the health of the adult turtle populations, but the hatchling (baby) turtles face challenges of their own. Artificial lighting poses one of the biggest threats to hatchlings in Broward; it can cause the hatchlings to disorient and crawl toward land instead of the sea. Reducing artificial lighting can be easily accomplished by following these guidelines:

-Turn off unnecessary lights
-Use red or amber LED bulbs
-Close curtains or move interior light sources away from windows
-Shield lights that are visible from the beach
-Only light what is needed; reduce decorative lighting

Each of the County's coastal municipalities has its own beachfront lighting ordinance, but most generally require property owners to extinguish lights from sundown to sunup during sea turtle nesting season. More information about your local lighting ordinance and a list of certified lighting fixtures can be found by visiting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's website. Alternatively, you can contact the BSCTCP for assistance with retrofitting or additional information.

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