Sea turtles ready to hatchFrom the July 21, 2010 Issue
PHOTO/MARY LOU JOHNSON Longboat Key’s first turtle nest
hatched July 12. Here, a crowd makes a large “U” as the turtles
were released and quickly scurried down to the edge of the water.
This year’s crop of sea turtles has not yet begun to hatch on Anna Maria Island, but to the north and south, preemies are hatching early.
While the first turtle nest laid on the Island this year is late – it was supposed to hatch last Saturday – a nest on Longboat Key hatched only 45 days into incubation, and one in Clearwater hatched at 48 days, according to Suzi Fox, of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shore Bird Monitoring. The norm is 60 days.
“This has never happened before,” she said.
Apparently the extreme heat this summer is incubating the eggs faster than usual, she said, adding that while human premature babies can be underdeveloped, the sea turtle preemies are fully developed.
Island Turtle Watch volunteers have been advised to start watching for nests to hatch at day 45 of their incubation, she said.
The Island has 36 fewer nests on the beach than at this time last year, she said, with 99 nests and 101 false crawls. It’s normal to have similar numbers of nests and false crawls, she said.
It’s not as normal for a green sea turtle to be found in the Intracoastal Waterway, but Bradenton Beach Public Works staff found one at the end of 10th Street North last week and called Mote Marine Laboratory, which picked “Brady” up for some R&R at its turtle hospital.
Mote has been asked by Deepwater Horizon Unified Command to become a primary response site for oiled sea turtles, which will require a $1.5 million expansion, including rehabilitation tanks, filtration systems and staff.
Sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico are at risk from the oil spill. They feed on sargassum algae, which collects oil and is being burned. Turtle observers watch for and attempt to rescue oiled sea turtles before burning operations begin.
So far, 201 injured sea turtles and 467 dead sea turtles have been recovered.
Wildlife officials also have transplanted 56 hatchlings from the northern Gulf to beaches on Florida’s east coast to help them avoid the oil.
If the hatchlings began life in the Gulf, they normally would get picked up by the Loop Current and make it to the Atlantic anyway, said Barbara Schroeder, national sea turtle coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“This way, they avoid the oil,” she said.
Of the seven species of sea turtles, five can be found in the Gulf of Mexico – leatherback, green, Kemp's ridley, hawksbill, and loggerhead. The Gulf is the only place in the world where Kemp’s ridley sea turtles nest. All five species are listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.