Sea Turtles, © William R. Curtsinger / National Geographic Stock

On Florida Beaches, a Bumper Crop of Baby Turtles

Florida is in the midst of a baby boom, but not one you might expect.  There are 50 percent more sea turtle nests on Florida beaches this summer than in past years, a pleasant surprise to wildlife researchers.  The threatened loggerhead and endangered green and leatherback turtles are all species that nest on the Florida coast.

Sea Turtles, (c) William R. Curtsinger / National Geographic Stock

Newborn sea turtles like these have a long swim ahead of them. We can help them get the best possible start by turning off artificial lights at night and keeping away from their nests.

Scientists aren’t sure what caused the sudden spike in the nest count, though some of the turtles may have increased their food intake this year.  What we can be sure of, though, is that we need protections for sea turtles to ensure that we have more banner seasons like this one.

Turtle Excluder Devices, or TEDs, help prevent sea turtles from being caught in fishing nets.  Regulations requiring most shrimp nets to have TEDs have been in place since the 1990s, but exempted nets still capture over 28,000 sea turtles every year.  The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently proposed to close the gap and extend the requirements to all shrimp nets, but wildlife opponents in Congress are moving to block this recovery effort.

Defenders is working hard to fight this opposition and make the oceans safer for the tiny hatchlings that will soon be heading out to sea.  Meanwhile, you can help sea turtles by reducing artificial lights at night if you live near nest beaches, since they can confuse and attract sea turtles trying to crawl back to the water.  Make sure to keep kids and pets away, too.  You can also help by picking up beach trash, which can attract raccoons and other predators.

Conservationists can feel hopeful that Florida nest numbers are up.  The true test, though, will be the number of turtles hatched on Florida beaches that return to lay their own eggs, many years from now.

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  Click to listen to the Public News Service story with Defenders representative Elizabeth Fleming’s commentary!

3 Responses to “On Florida Beaches, a Bumper Crop of Baby Turtles”

  1. Kris Long

    While lots of folks want to help sea turtles out, this article is sorely lacking any real information about what’s going on, including compliance specs from use of TEDS so far and the fact that sea turtle deaths spiked a great deal more either off-season for shrimpers or in very low-activity times, and that the spike NMFS/NOAA cite and blame on shrimpers correlates quite clearly with the Macondo Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. NMFS and NOAA have not shown any evidence of trying to verify how these beached turtles (who are also being found on beaches much more watched than they were before 4/20/2010) actually died. The articles on this often cite someone claiming that the turtles are not covered with oil, completely ignoring the possibility of ingested toxins being an issue, or the possibility (one with ever growing evidence vetted by scientists who are not employed by shrimpers or by the folks trying to get out of paying for the spill) that devastation of creatures lower in the food chain may well effect the turtles that feed on them.

    I’m not a representative of the shrimping industry, and I don’t necessarily think that congress is pure in their own intentions, but blaming shrimpers just because of a poorly cited article (referring to the NMFS here, not your own) printed by people who clearly chose an at-fault party before writing the narrative to support it (please excuse the run-on here) is neither a way to keep improving the sea turtle population, nor a way to help the Gulf heal from the likely worst ecological disaster in the history of the United States.

    Thank you for your empathy for wildlife which is generally endangered or close to it. I hope this information is helpful and doesn’t appear as an indictment of your person or this site, which it is not meant to be.

    Thank you for your time.

    Kris Long

  2. Adele Nguyen

    “Defenders is working hard….” to do what? I’d really love some more specificity. Lawsuits? people out protecting the nests/hatchlings? what? —

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