Turtles break record, keep nesting
CINDY LANE | SUN
Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird
Monitoring volunteer Glenn Wiseman excavates
a nest; the cages on the ATV are to protect
unhatched sea turtle nests in Bradenton Beach
from raccoons that are raiding the nests.
Sea turtles are going for the gold on Anna Maria Island, breaking last year’s record of 362 nests with a whopping 367 nests, up seven from last week.
They’ve also topped the 2012 hatchling total of 12,627, with the latest number of hatchlings reaching the Gulf of Mexico at 15,596, up from 12,312 last week. 189 nests have hatched so far, and there are more to come.
Hatching will go on at least through Halloween, but it’s late in the season for nesting, and no one is sure why the turtles are still coming to nest, said Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.
Her best guess is that conservation measures that began 30 years ago – such as correcting lighting violations on beachfront properties – are starting to pay off, with female sea turtles hatched in the 1980s finally reaching nesting age.
Two years of record nesting is too early to call it a trend, Fox said, but the numbers are startling – the 15-year average is 156 nests per season, according to Turtle Watch statistics, less than half the number of nests so far this year.
In Holmes Beach, officials are working to boost the numbers even higher by working on a new turtle lighting ordinance.
Commissioner Marvin Grossman announced last week that the city and Fox are discussing model turtle lighting ordinances that can be tweaked to meet the city’s needs.
He also suggested that classes could be held once or twice a week, or even daily, to teach visitors about turtles in an effort to slow increasing instances of visitors harassing and disorienting nesting and hatching turtles.
Vacation rental websites have been advertising sea turtles as a draw for potential visitors with little or no instruction on turtle laws, such as closing blinds facing the beach, bringing in beach furniture at night and not handing turtles.
Grossman suggested that the Manatee County Tourist Development Council might consider funding the classes with resort tax funds, since the classes would promote tourism.
Turtle Watch holds educational turtle talks, staffed by volunteers, throughout turtle season, May 1 to Oct. 31.