Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas gulf coast sea turtle nests hit record number

The six-month sea turtle nesting season is crawling to an end. Along the 26 miles of Pinellas County beaches the Clearwater Marine Aquarium monitors, a record number of nests and hatchlings were recorded.

This year's count yielded 231 loggerhead sea turtle nests and 15,300 hatchlings, both up from last year's count, according to Adrienne Cardwell, manager of sea turtles at the aquarium. Though there have been green sea turtle nests in the past, there were none this year.

"Turtles sometimes will take turns on how many times they nest a year," Cardwell said. "Some of them won't nest, so it all depends. There's numerous factors involved. We can't say (the increased numbers) are due to our work at this point, but it's a record high."

Some of the success, she said, is due in part to favorable weather. Tropical Storm Debby had an adverse effect on last year's nesting count, but Cardwell said weather did not have a significant impact this year.

The aquarium begins monitoring the turtles April 1, getting a jump on the official season, which runs May 1 through Oct. 31. Much of the work involves ensuring the turtles are able to properly nest.

"Our big issue is lighting and public interaction with the nest," Cardwell said.

To combat these issues, teams search for turtle tracks to locate the nests. Members put stakes around four corners of a nest and tape the area to mark and protect it. In places with a higher population and greater light sources, members put plastic mesh around the nests.

"Our baby sea turtles are attracted by light," Cardwell said, referring to moonlight that safely draws turtle hatchlings to the sea. But homes and businesses? "They're going to head toward the light, which might not be the right direction in this case."

Teams return after 50 days when the nests go "live." Taking two shifts, the teams help guide the hatchlings to the water from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.

The period before the nest is ready to hatch is an important time to protect the eggs, as vandalism is common.

"We even have people digging up the eggs or relocating eggs or messing around with the nest itself, which actually has an effect on the viability of the eggs," Cardwell said.

It's illegal to tamper with a sea turtle nest. Loggerheads are considered a threatened species, and are the only species of sea turtle in Florida with a population great enough to not be classified as endangered, a more dire status.

To better educate folks, aquarium members go into local communities to talk about protection laws, turtle-safe lighting and clearing the beach of chairs and sand castles in the evenings.

Residents should draw their blinds and keep their lights off at night, Cardwell said. "That gives us the best chance that the females are going to (build their nests) and that the eggs, when they hatch, are going to go in the right direction."

On the web

See a hatchling go from nest to the gulf. Click on this story at

Pinellas gulf coast sea turtle nests hit record number 10/24/13 [Last modified: Friday, October 25, 2013 11:49am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Search for missing Army helicopter crew suspended in Hawaii


    HONOLULU — Officials have suspended the search for five Army soldiers who were aboard a helicopter that crashed during offshore training in Hawaii last week.

    Water safety officials hand over possible debris from an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash to military personnel stationed at a command center in a harbor, Wednesday in Haleiwa, Hawaii, a day after. an Army helicopter with five on board crashed several miles off Oahu's North Shore. Officials  suspended the search for five Army soldiers in a helicopter crash during offshore training in Hawaii on Monday. [Associated Press]
  2. Rubio praises Trump for 'excellent' speech on Afghanistan


    Sen. Marco Rubio praised President Donald Trump's "excellent" speech on Afghanistan. Sen. Bill Nelson was less effusive but agreed with the goal.

  3. Gov. Rick Scott blasts report of shifting words on Charlottesville


    Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most scripted politicians in modern Florida history, said Monday that "both sides” bear blame for Charlottesville.

  4. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer


    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  5. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry


    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.