By Jane Bartnett
On Oct. 31, the 2021 sea turtle nesting season came to an official close. The outlook for these treasured and important residents of the Siesta Key shoreline, according to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium researchers, is encouraging.
This year, the organization reported that the team counted a total of 3,786 nests across southwest Florida beaches. The results, according to Mote’s website, “marked the fourth-highest year in our 40 years of monitoring nests.”
Mote records show that on Siesta Key beaches, as of Nov. 6, a cumulative 521 yearly sea turtle nests were documented. In addition, Mote also recorded another 603 “false crawls” on Siesta Key beaches, which indicate that a female sea turtle crawled onto the beach but returned to the gulf waters without leaving a nest.
The numbers show an increase from the previous year in which 465 yearly nests were found and 581 “false crawl” reports.
Siesta Key and the beaches of south Sarasota County are home to four different types of sea turtles. Loggerhead turtles are the most common, followed by green, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley turtles.
Scientists were also encouraged to find an increase in the number of green turtles. During the 2021 count there were 89 green turtle nests found along the 25 miles of beaches that were observed, marking the largest count since mote began this documentation in the 1990s.
“Data show that nesting by loggerhead turtles declined and then rebounded in recent years, while green turtle nesting, although very low in numbers, has increased,” Mote announced.
The life of a sea turtle is a dangerous one. In addition to the hazard presented by humans, birds and other animals who may harm their nests, nesting female turtles and their young can be easily confused by artificial lights.
Thinking that they see moonlight, the turtles gravitate toward land.
In August, Mote reported a rescue of 27 loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings from a Longboat Key resident’s house where they were found in a swimming pool. The baby turtles were taken to the organization’s Hatching Hospital for care so they could be returned to their natural home.
There are ways that seaside residents and all who live in this region can support the safety of these vital sea creatures. Sarasota County’s Lighting Guide, found on the county website, states that exterior lights should be directed low to the ground and recommends using light bulbs with low wattage that are superior to bright white lights. Red or amber LED bulbs, with long-wave lengths, are also recommended.
Residences and businesses located within sight of the beach and sand should shield lights and keep them from shining toward the water and the sand. And, when purchasing exterior light bulbs, experts recommend checking for lights that are certified for wildlife lighting. Window tinting can also reduce visible light transmission.
To learn more, visit scgov.net and search for “sea turtle lighting guide,” or visit Mote Marine’s website at motemarine.org.
Sea turtles are protected by federal laws and any harassment or interference is subject to penalty. Anyone who is aware of such illegal activity should contact the Florida Wildlife Conservation office at (888) 404-3922, the local sheriff’s department or, Motes’ Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at (941) 388-4331.
Mote’s website has information on what to do to report sightings of sick, injured or distressed sea turtles and other sea animals.