Island bucks loggerhead nesting trend
PHOTO/AMI TURTLE WATCH
A leatherback sea turtle is oblivious to everything
but her nesting. Here, Allie Hays, a grad student working this summer at
Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, monitors China laying her nest in
the refuge. China has returned many times to the refuge to lay her eggs.
Historically, it’s loggerhead turtles that come ashore, dig their nests and lay their eggs on Anna Maria Island beaches. Now, the number of loggerhead nests has declined nearly 50 percent since 1998, according to Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission statistics.
Nobody knows exactly why this trend is occurring.
"Our overall numbers are down as well," said Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox. "Last year, we were up a little, but we didn’t have a renourishment project going on, and we are always up when that happens."
Fox said that in 2007, there were 144 nests on the Island, which was up from the year before. Other areas around the state documented declines in loggerhead nesting last year, though nesting for green turtles and leatherbacks has been increasing. Locally, we only see loggerhead nesting, except for one documented green turtle nest.
"But we should be up in the 200s, Fox said. "I’ve been doing this for almost 15 years, and the counts used to be much higher."
There appears to be no one thing that points to the reasons for the decline, but information collected from strandings (which are dead turtles found on the shore or in the water) have more than doubled in the last decade. That’s also according to FWC statistical reports.
"Some of it’s the artificial lighting on the beaches," Fox said. "Sometimes the hatchlings crawl toward the land instead of into the sea."
Fox said that in workshops she attends yearly and from information gathered by other turtle protection permit holders are supplying to FWC, it appears that many turtles are lost to collisions with boat propellers. Throughout the state, it now appears that such collisions are the most common cause of injury to the turtles that wash up on the state’s beaches.
"We see that here as well," Fox said. She’s the one called to investigate when a dead turtle washes up here. She takes information about the size of the turtle and do a diagram of every barnacle on the turtle, any scars or obvious signs of injury and signs of propeller injury.