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The First Sea Turtle Nests of 2024 Have Arrived in Sarasota

Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program (STCRP) marked a significant moment in sea turtle conservation by documenting the first local nest of the 2024 nesting season on April 28, at Venice Beach in South Sarasota County. This event heralds the start of a critical time for sea turtle protection efforts.

The 2024 season kicked off with Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol, which includes STCRP staff, interns, and over 300 volunteers, commencing daily monitoring activities from April 15. They cover a remarkable 35 miles of coastline from Longboat Key to Venice, meticulously surveying for new nests.

STCRP uses yellow stakes and flagging tape to mark each nest while gathering valuable data. Melissa Macksey, Mote’s senior biologist and the conservation manager for STCRP, highlighted the importance of starting patrols early. This proactive strategy enabled them to detect the first nesting signs promptly, thanks to the dedicated efforts of their volunteers and interns.

The season’s inaugural nest was laid by a loggerhead sea turtle, a species federally recognized as threatened. Loggerheads dominate the nesting scene in southwest Florida, followed by the endangered green and rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.

Throughout the nesting season, which runs until October 31, the STCRP documents various nesting activities. This data collection aids in analyzing trends such as phenological shifts, nesting density, and hatchling emergence success, along with assessing environmental impacts and nest site selection. These insights have been pivotal over the last four decades, helping Mote Marine to refine conservation strategies continuously.

Recent trends are positive; Mote reported a significant increase in nest numbers in recent years, with 4,284 nests recorded in 2023 alone. These statistics are available for public viewing through weekly updates provided by Mote.

As the season progresses, Macksey encourages beachgoers to adopt responsible behaviors to support sea turtle conservation. Simple actions by the public can significantly enhance the survival rates of hatchlings. During nesting season, it’s crucial to minimize beachfront lighting, which can disorient sea turtles, and to avoid obstructing their path with beach furniture or debris.

Local ordinances, such as those in Sarasota County and the cities of Venice and Longboat Key, play a vital role in protecting these marine creatures. Adhering to these regulations, along with being vigilant on the water and reporting any stranded or injured sea turtles to the appropriate authorities, can make a substantial difference in conservation efforts.

Mote Marine Laboratory remains committed to its mission of protecting sea turtles and provides emergency contacts and guidance for residents and visitors to participate in these efforts actively.

Courtesy of Sarasota Magazine


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