Storm toll high, but nests still hatching
SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY Matilde Oppizzi hammers in the final stake
marking the nest while AMITW Director Suzi Fox, Dad Guido, and Linda Oppizzi look on.
About 25 percent of the nests remaining on the beach early last week were washed out to sea in the high surf generated by Tropical Storm Fay as she passed the Island’s Gulf shore.
“It could have been much worse, and we had a few bright spots," said Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox. "We actually found some hatchlings alive when the surf uncovered their nests."
Fox, the volunteers and some of the surfers who flocked to the Island for the wave action collected the hatchlings.
The baby turtles were taken to Mote Marine Laboratory, placed with other rescued hatchlings and released into the Gulf when the waves calmed down.
Some Island residents and visitors were upset when they realized that they would not be allowed to dig up nests that looked to be in danger of washing out.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission mandates that nests be left alone unless the eggs are actually exposed.
"FWC guide lines do not allow you to dig up nests to move eggs or release hatchlings before natural emergence. You can respond to any nests that are washing out by reburying the eggs on the beach (not in buckets or containers,)," FWC staffers told state permit holders, including Fox.
The guidelines say that if anyone brings eggs they found on the beach to the volunteers, they should be thanked and then educated about the fact that those eggs will not be likely to hatch. The eggs should then be reburied immediately on the beach.
People who witness a nest washing out find this mandate harsh. There is some science behind it, though.
"Yes. Storms have an impact on sea turtles, but they have adapted their nesting strategy to accommodate for natural events such as hurricanes," the FWC memo said. "Each nesting female deposits several nests throughout the duration of nesting season – essentially hedging her bets to make sure that even if a storm hits at some point during the nesting season, there is a high probability that at least a few of her nests will incubate successfully without being impacted by a storm."
No storm season is a total loss to sea turtles, according to FWC statements.
"Even in 2004, when Florida sustained direct hits from Charley, Francis and Jeanne, 42 percent of statewide loggerhead nests hatched, and the number of hatchlings that emerged was within our normal range," the memo continued.
The Adopt-A-Nest program has been going well this year. Residents, visitors and businesses can adopt a turtle nest for $100. A turtle-shaped announcement is attached to a stake on the nest with information about the adoption.
There was an interesting adoption late last month by an Italian family visiting here for the second year in a row.
"We wanted to make a contribution to preserve a piece of paradise and to insure a part of us will continue swimming in the beautiful Anna Maria waters," Guido Oppizzi said.
He and his wife and three children fancifully named their nest "Magiolin," a combination of the children’s names — Matilde, Giovanni and Linda.
"That sounds like "maggiolino" the Italian word for an insect that brings people luck," Oppizzi noted.