According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), 2014 was another good year for sea turtles nesting in Florida! Why is this such great news? Because sea turtles play a vital role in the island’s marine ecosystem (as well as any other marine ecosystem), with each sea turtle species uniquely affecting the diversity, habitat and functionality of its environment. Whether by grazing on sea grass, feasting on jellyfish, controlling sponge distribution, transporting nutrients or supporting other marine life, sea turtles play a vital role in maintaining the health of the Gulf of Mexico and the AMI shoreline.
According to FWC research scientists, loggerhead turtle nest numbers remained high, while leatherback turtle nesting reached a new record in the state.
Loggerhead 2014 nest counts were slightly higher than last year, but their nest numbers in Florida show a complex pattern: nest counts have increased, then decreased, then increased again. Despite the variable pattern, the overall trend in this species’ nest numbers is positive.
The nest counts for leatherback turtles reached a new record high in the state in 2014, showing a slight increase over the previous high in 2009. Although nesting at a much lower level than loggerheads, the trend in leatherback nesting shows an exponential increase over the last 26 years.
Although counts in 2014 were much lower than last year, green turtle nesting trends show an exponential increase over the last 26 years. The low count was expected because green turtle nesting patterns tend to follow a two-year cycle with wide year-to-year fluctuations. Green turtle nest counts set two consecutive high records in 2011 and 2013, so the number should rebound next season.
The monitoring program on sea turtle nesting in Florida is an outstanding collaboration involving more than 2,000 individuals, including members of the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch group, with diverse backgrounds who share a common passion for sea turtles.
Sea turtle nesting season runs from May to October each year.