ANNA MARIA ISLAND – The 2021 sea turtle nesting season is over on the Island, with the final known nest hatching Thursday, Oct. 14, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring statistician Pete Gross.
In every category, the numbers were better this year than the 20-year average from 2001 through 2020, but the turtles did not beat their all-time high numbers in any category.
Given the Piney Point wastewater discharge in Tampa Bay in April and the resulting – and lingering – red tide, turtle moms did well to beat their 20-year nesting average of 259 nests with a total of 422 this season. They fell short of their 2019 record of 544 nests, however.
The moms made 555 false crawls – or nest attempts – this year, more than the 20-year average of 285, but fewer than the highest count of 568 in 2019.
Turtle hatchlings barely beat their 20-year average of 206 hatched nests with a total of 226 hatched nests this year; their record was 447 in 2018.
The number of hatchlings this year also was higher than the 20-year average of 13,543 baby turtles, with 15,725 making their way to the Gulf in 2021. Their record: 35,788 hatchlings in 2018.
People did well too, with 34 nest disorientations caused by lights, fewer than the 20-year average of 58. Ideally, people would turn off beach-facing lights and keep flashlights and mobile phone lights off the beach during turtle season, from May 1 to Oct. 31.