How 2017 nesting season shocked us

Categories: News

Sea Turtle Nesting Season is Over – Or Is It?!

It’s officially the end of sea turtle nesting season in Palm Beach County!

Well, sort of.

Although nesting season officially ended Oct. 31, the local sea turtle population still hasn’t learned how to read our calendars.

Last week, Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s research biologists were out checking the few remaining sea turtle nests. While on the beach, they found a new green sea turtle nest, which was laid on Nov. 1.

In over 30 years of research on our 9.5-mile stretch in northern Palm Beach County, this is the latest green sea turtle nest we’ve recorded. The latest nest ever to be recorded on this stretch was on Nov. 17, 2012, a loggerhead/hawksbill hybrid nest.

Pretty crazy, right?

On average, nests incubate about 60 days. Because temperatures are cooler this time of year, late season nests usually incubate longer. That means this Nov. 1 nest will probably incubate through late January.

We will wait another week for our final nest numbers. However, the unofficial nest counts for the 2017 season are:

  • Leatherbacks: 97 nests
  • Loggerheads: 11,184 nests
  • Greens: 7,808 nests (record-breaking)

Grand total: 19,089 (record-breaking)

It was an overall record-breaking year, not just for green sea turtles, but for all three species on the 9.5-mile stretch.

Sea turtles are long-lived animals, so LMC’s research biologists cannot be sure why exactly the numbers change. This is why reasons long-term monitoring is essential to sea turtle research.

“Scientists can’t know what’s happening with populations unless we know numbers, which means we have to document nests and crawls,” said Sarah Hirsch, LMC’s data manager. “But it’s not just about counting. We have to analyze those numbers to find trends, including beach health and sea turtle hatching success. We also collect data for ongoing collaborative research projects. It’s encouraging to see nest numbers steadily increase – definitely an affirmation of our efforts to learn more about and protect sea turtles.”

For more information about LMC’s research efforts, visit marinelife.org/research.