June 16 is World Sea Turtle Day. Most readers are probably aware that sea turtles nest on our local beaches during the summer months (May through October). Three species commonly nest on Florida beaches. Over the past five years (2015-19), 3,344 sea turtle nests were laid on Flagler County beaches. Of these, 81% were loggerhead sea turtle nests. Eighteen percent were green sea turtle nests and leatherback sea turtles laid the remaining one percent of nests. These nests represent about 0.5% of the total number of sea turtle nests statewide.
What other types of sea turtles nest on our beaches?
Green sea turtles alternate laying large numbers of nests one year and small numbers of nests the next year. While there are annual variations for loggerheads and leatherbacks, these are not as dramatic as for greens. In both 2016 and 2018, there were roughly 5,000 green sea turtle nests recorded statewide. In 2017 and 2019, there were more than 50,000 green sea turtle nests recorded each year!
How often does an individual sea turtle nest?
An individual female sea turtle will probably not nest every year. However, she will lay multiple nests over the summer in years that she does nest. Sea turtles seem to lay their nests generally in areas where they were born, but it is likely that their multiple nests are somewhat spread out.
The average sea turtle nest contains about 100 eggs, which will incubate for about two months before hatching. Scientists estimate that only about one out of every 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood. Based on this, we can estimate that nests laid on Flagler County beaches could add about 60 adult sea turtles to the population each year (after about 20 years!).
How can we help protect sea turtles?
As a reminder, there are many ways that people can help protect sea turtles (and other marine life). These include the following:
- Picking up and safely disposing of trash (especially plastic);
- Never releasing balloons;
- Removing all “beach furniture” when leaving the beach; and
- Leveling sand castles and filling in holes before leaving the beach.
You can find additional suggestions of things to do for World Sea Turtle Day in the UF/IFAS Extension publication, “Sea Turtle Conservation: Priorities for Environmental Education Efforts.”