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More than 10,000 sea turtle hatchlings reported at Cape Romano, a record high

More than 10,000 sea turtle hatchlings reported at Cape Romano, a record high

Ryan Mills  Naples Daily NewsPublished 1:43 PM EST Nov 22, 2018

More than 10,000 loggerhead sea turtles hatched this season at Cape Romano, almost twice as many as the previous record since monitoring began 12 years ago, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reported this week.

The record number of hatchlings at the Cape Romano Complex, south of Marco Island, comes as a welcomed bit of good news after a difficult summer where dozens of sea turtles were found dead along Collier shores, likely victims of a red tide bloom that persisted along the Gulf Coast for months.

New born sea turtle walking on the sand coming out from nest.Karla Martinez, Getty Images/iStockphoto

A recent Rookery Bay Research Reserve assessment of the Cape Romano Complex found 10,752 hatchlings emerged this nesting season from 146 nests, with an estimated 74 percent emergence success, DEP reported.

That’s a record for hatchlings at the complex since monitoring and nest caging began in 2006. The previous record for hatchlings at the Cape Romano Complex was 6,046 in 2014, according to DEP.

READ MORE: Red tide, Irma, artificial light hurt sea turtle nesting season in Collier

READ MORE: Sea turtles rescued from red tide poisoning released on Naples beach

Rookery Bay Research Reserve has increased hatching success by close to 100 percent since the reserve began installing cages to protect the sea turtle nests from raccoons and other predators, the reserve’s director Keith Laakkonen said in a prepared statement.

This year’s hatchling record came with 29 fewer nests than 2016, which was a banner year for sea turtles, Laakkonen said.

READ MORE: Majority of sea turtles born on Florida beaches are female

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Every morning during nesting season, a summer intern and local volunteers patrol the beaches looking for nests and installing cages. Once the eggs have hatched, the cages are removed, the nests are excavated and the empty shells are counted to determine the number of hatchlings, DEP said.

The Rookery Bay Research Reserve credited beachgoers with keeping the beach clean and removing obstacles, which helps nesting female turtles and hatchlings get to the water safely. During sea turtle nesting season, which runs from May through October, beachgoers should remove beach furniture, fill in holes and smooth out sandcastles before leaving the beach to aid the turtles, the reserve said.

Loggerhead sea turtles are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy. The species’ greatest threat is loss of habitat due to coastal development, predation of nests and coastal lighting, which disorients the turtles.

According to the conservancy, sea turtles nest at intervals of two to four years, and lay three to six nests per season with an average of between 100 and 126 egg in each nest. Published 1:43 PM EST Nov 22, 2018

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