Turtle trackers predict Bortie’s return

Turtle trackers predict Bortie’s return
This satellite tracking map shows that Bortie was west of Anna Maria Island on April 17; the red star indicates Coquina Beach, where she was tagged and released three years ago. - Sea Turtle Conservancy | Submitted

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Just in time for the May 1 start of sea turtle nesting season off AMI, Bortie may be coming home to nest.

The female loggerhead sea turtle was satellite-tagged and released from Coquina Beach in June 2018 after she nested; her nest successfully hatched two months later.

Turtle trackers predict Bortie’s return
Bortie was satellite-tagged and released from Coquina Beach in June 2018 and may be headed back this way to nest. – Cindy Lane | Sun

Bortie competed in the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s 11th Annual Tour de Turtles, placing 10th out of 13 contestants at the end of the race on Oct. 31, the last day of the 2018 turtle nesting season.

She traveled 351 miles during the race, lingering off Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys, while the winner, Bion, was busy swimming 1,674 miles from Cocoa Beach up to north Florida, then down to the Bahamas. Since her release three years ago, Bortie has logged 3,836 miles, according to the Conservancy.

The annual event is part of the Conservancy’s research project tracking satellite-tagged turtles to determine where and how far they migrate.

Bortie was named for Bortell’s, an Anna Maria restaurant and bar under renovation, and one of her several sponsors.

Another sponsor was Anna Maria Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, and Director Suzi Fox was happy to hear the news.

Turtle Tips

During sea turtle season, May 1 – Oct. 31, please follow these tips:

– Turn off lights visible from the beach and close blinds from sundown to sunrise; lights confuse nesting sea turtles and may cause them to go back to sea and drop their eggs in the water, where they won’t hatch. Light can also attract hatchlings away from the water.

– Don’t use flashlights, lanterns or camera flashes on the beach at night.

– Remove all objects from the sand from sundown to sunrise; they can deter sea turtles from nesting and can disorient hatchlings.

– Fill in the holes you dig in the sand and level sandcastles before leaving the beach; they can obstruct or trap nesting and hatching sea turtles, which cannot live long out of the water.

– Don’t use wish lanterns or fireworks; they litter the beach and Gulf.

– Do not trim trees and plants that shield the beach from lights.

– Never touch a sea turtle; it’s the law. If you see people disturbing turtles, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).


“These tags are important. I know they’re expensive, but the information that you get from them is priceless,” she said.

“I’m a little nervous because of the Piney Point discharge,” Fox said, referring to the 215 million gallon emergency discharge of wastewater from one of the closed phosphate plant’s gyp stacks this month. “I hope she stays south of that. These poor nesting mothers have enough to worry about.”

Gearing up for turtle season

Local boat captains are reporting loggerhead sightings off the northern tip of Anna Maria Island, a sure sign nesting season is about to commence, Fox said.

“They’re out there,” she said. “They’re probably waiting for the sand to get a little bit warmer.”

Last year was a good turtle nesting year on Anna Maria Island, with 349 nests laid (the record is 544 in 2019) and 20,237 hatchlings hatched (the record is 35,788 in 2018).

The coronavirus pandemic has curtailed the triple-digit Turtle Watch volunteer ranks down to 16 people, who now monitor beaches on ATVs instead of on foot to promote social distancing, she said, adding that Turtle Talks and public nest excavations will be canceled again this season due to COVID-19.

“We’re waiting until next year when more people are vaccinated,” she said.

Masks with a turtle design are available at Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and will be included in gift packages for people participating in the organization’s Adopt-a-Nest program. Visit Turtle Watch for more information.