TALLAHASSEE — Florida wildlife officials are reporting a record number of green sea turtle nests.
More than 25,000 green sea turtle nests were counted on 26 state beaches this year, more than twice the previous record, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists said Wednesday.
"We are astounded and pleased by the high number of green turtle nests documented in 2013," said Blair Witherington, a researcher with the commission. "It looks like the years of conservation efforts for this endangered species are paying off."
The commission has been monitoring sea turtle nests on specific "index beaches" spanning nearly 250 miles since 1989. Researchers use the surveys to identify nesting trends, and the data complements annual surveys of nesting on nearly all sandy beaches in Florida.
In 1989, only 464 green sea turtle nests were documented. The count from the index beaches represents about 70 percent of green turtle nesting statewide.
Researchers say leatherback sea turtle nests also have risen dramatically since 1989. However, the tally for leatherback nests this year was 322, with 193 fewer nests than 2012's total.
The number of loggerhead sea turtle nests also is down from last year, with 44,810 nests counted compared with 58,172 in 2012. Researchers say loggerheads have not recovered as much as other sea turtle species, and last year's high tally followed a pronounced drop between 1998 and 2007.
The loggerhead is threatened and the green and leatherback are endangered, but all sea turtles are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and the Florida Marine Protection Act. It is against the law to touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings or their nests.
Nesting season in Florida runs from March through October on the Atlantic coast, and from May through October on the Gulf Coast.