3 species, 2,252 hatchlings: A look at the turtle season
A breakdown of this turtle season by the numbers
PANAMA CITY BEACH — It was a mixed bag this year for nesting turtles on Panama City Beach.
On one hand, a record number of nests was recorded, and it was the first season loggerheads, leatherback and green turtles all nested on the sandy beach.
On the other hand, storms flooded or washed out many of the nests, and the hatchlings still are struggling with disorientation from the glow of city lights.
“Storms had an impact this year, but hatching success was still within historical patterns,” said Kennard Watson, director of the Panama City Beach Turtle Watch. “The major threat to sea turtles on our beach continues to be lights from beachfront development.”
Here’s a breakdown of the season by the numbers from this year’s Turtle Watch report.
57 nests: This is the largest number of nests since monitoring began in 1991. Breaking that figure down further, there were 48 loggerhead nests, five green turtle nests and four leatherback nests. Loggerheads and green turtles both are threatened species; leatherbacks are endangered.
36 storm impacted nests: Of those nests, 18 were washed out, including three made by green turtles. Another 18 were flooded, though nine of the flooded nests didn’t suffer adverse effects.
2,252 hatchlings: That’s right. Even with Nate, Cindy and numerous other storms, Panama City Beach nests yielded over 2,000 baby turtles this season. The emergence success rate was about 68 percent, as not every egg made it. None of the leatherback nests produced babies, as three were washed away and one failed to hatch.
72 percent: Almost three quarters of the hatchlings that emerged at night were disoriented by light, which Watson said “unfortunately” showed no improvements from last year. Urban glow was the No. 1 contributor to the confusion, followed by exterior condo lights, parking lights and then street lights.
17 complaints: There are ordinances on the books to help with the turtle lighting situation. This year, Bay County Code Enforcement received 17 complaints for turtle lighting violations, nine of which were unfounded. The majority of complaints had to with property owners, not condos, and all were corrected.
22 strandings: This season, 14 loggerheads, four green turtles and four Kemp’s ridley turtles were rescued locally. It’s a record setting number, but Watson cautioned the number might only be higher this year because county and city pier employees have become more proactive in their reporting.
35 years: It’s going to be a long time until these turtles return to the beach to the nest. Loggerheads reach sexual maturity at 35 years, at which point they return to their home beach, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Green turtles reach sexual maturity in 20 to 50 years.