Green sea turtles nested in record numbers around Florida this year, surpassing previous records statewide and in Volusia and Flagler counties.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission documented approximately 39,000 green turtle nests on the 27 index beaches the state monitors to assess trends in nesting sea turtles. Total sea turtle nest numbers from the FWC will be available early in 2018.
When the state first began surveying the index beaches nearly 30 years ago, 464 green turtle nests were recorded. That total had jumped to 10,701 by 2011. Green turtles typically see high numbers every other year.
Of the index nesting survey numbers, FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski called the increase in green turtles over the past 27 years “a victory for conservation.”
“After years of many people and agencies working to conserve this species and its marine habitats, numbers of green sea turtles in our coastal waters and nesting on our beaches have increased substantially,” Yablonski said in a news release.
In Flagler County and Flagler Beach, the Volusia/Flagler Turtle Patrol counted 222 green turtle nests. That was also a record, said President Beth Libert.
In Volusia County, turtle monitors counted 82 green turtle nests on the beaches north of Canaveral National Seashore. That surpassed a previous high of 55 in 2007 and 2013.
In total, the county reported 720 sea turtle nests north of the seashore, the second highest nesting year on record. The record was set in 2012, when there were 885 loggerhead turtle nests.
“We were excited to see so many turtles using our beaches again this summer,” stated Jennifer Winters, Volusia County’s Habitat Conservation Plan program manager.
Although many nests statewide were eroded or overwashed by Hurricane Irma, some of the nests survived. In addition, Winters said new nests were dug after the hurricane passed through in September.
By checking nests after they hatch, Volusia County officials concluded at least 39,000 eggs hatched on the county’s beaches this year.
Immediately after Irma, more than 1,000 live hatchling turtles were recovered on the beach, as well as more than 800 “washback” sea turtles. Washbacks are hatchlings from earlier in the season that had made their way offshore to floating sargassum seaweed and are returned to the beach by rough seas.