Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

It's a loggerhead baby boom at beaches, even though Debby wiped out many nests

Two nests are cordoned off on an eroded stretch of Belleair Beach in late June. Of 200 observed nests, 95 were lost in the tropical storm.


Two nests are cordoned off on an eroded stretch of Belleair Beach in late June. Of 200 observed nests, 95 were lost in the tropical storm.

CLEARWATER — The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has observed 200 loggerhead turtle nests so far this year — breaking the record of 195 set in 2003, and it isn't even the end of the nesting season.

It's hard to say why, but the high number might be attributed to years of conservation efforts or public awareness, said the aquarium's sea turtle program supervisor, Mike Anderson.

He said the nests, dug by an unknown number of female loggerheads along the 25 miles of Pinellas County beaches that the aquarium monitors, yielded nearly 3,000 hatchlings.

"It's pretty exciting. It's a busy year and we're still seeing hatchlings coming out," Anderson said. "All around the state I've been hearing there's some record numbers in other counties too, so it's just been a good year for loggerheads."

The news is especially good for these local loggerheads, considering the obstacles they face in heavily developed Pinellas County.

During nesting season, which lasts from May to late October each year, female loggerheads crawl out of the gulf at night to dig a hole on the beach, lay eggs, cover them with sand and swim away.

One turtle can lay four to five clutches, each containing 80 to 120 eggs, per nesting season. She typically won't nest again for two or three years, causing fluctuations in annual numbers.

Once hatched, the baby turtles "go to the water and they're on their own," Anderson said.

Each morning, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium patrols an area that stretches from Upham Beach in north St. Pete Beach to the north end of Clearwater Beach looking for tracks the turtles leave behind.

Anderson said Florida is one of the biggest states for nesting. But Pinellas historically doesn't see as much loggerhead nesting activity as counties farther south or on the Atlantic coast.

To add to the turtles' challenges this year, Anderson said, the aquarium lost 95 of the 200 observed nests when Tropical Storm Debby blew through the Tampa Bay area in June. The 3,000 hatchlings are the offspring of the 105 surviving nests.

Neither countywide nor statewide 2012 loggerhead nest numbers were immediately available from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which doesn't compile reports from local monitor organizations until the end of nesting season.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is one of three organizations that monitor sea turtle nests in Pinellas, the FWC said. The aquarium patrols the most territory of the three.

Anderson isn't anticipating many more nests between now and the end of October. But noting that the potential is there, he cautioned beachgoers to stay vigilant and keep artificial light along beaches to a minimum, as it can disorient the turtles and make hatchlings crawl away from the gulf.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected], (727) 445-4153 or on Twitter @KeyonnaSummers.

Year by year

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has seen a record number of loggerhead turtle nests already this year, with 200 nests observed and two months still remaining in the nesting season. Here are total numbers for previous seasons:

2012200 *

Source: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

*As of Aug. 29. Turtle nesting season ends in late October.

It's a loggerhead baby boom at beaches, even though Debby wiped out many nests 08/29/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 31, 2012 6:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Water leak slows traffic in Westshore area

    Public Safety

    TAMPA –– A broken water main has closed the westbound lane of West Cypress Street between North Westshore Boulevard and North Ward Street. The city estimates the repairs will be completed by 7 a.m. on Sunday.

  2. Fox renewed O'Reilly contract despite knowing of allegations


    NEW YORK (AP) — The Fox News Channel says the company knew a news analyst planned to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly when it renewed the popular personality's contract in February.

    Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly appears on the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," in New York. O'Reilly has lost his job at Fox News Channel in April following reports that several women had been paid millions of dollars to keep quiet about harassment allegations. [Associated Press file]
  3. Conviction overturned 30 years later in neo-Nazi murder case


    TAMPA — A judge on Friday overturned the murder conviction of Dean McKee now that new evidence has raised doubt about McKee's guilt in a Tampa slaying that occurred nearly three decades ago when he was 16.

    In 1987, a St. Petersburg Times reporter interviewed Dean McKee for a story about young skinheads in Tampa. [Times | 1987]
  4. Experts have some theories on who's carrying out Seminole Heights killings


    The words serial killer tend to conjure an image of a middle-aged white man, likely a loner. He stabs or chokes or strangles, murdering up close for the thrill, straight out of central casting.

    A memorial was set up where Anthony Naiboa, 20, was found shot to death in Seminole Heights. Some experts who have reviewed information in the case say that whoever is behind the three Seminole Heights killings may live in the area. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Late fumble, field goal send Florida State to another loss


    TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher didn't have an explanation for the turning point in Saturday's 31-28 last-second loss to Louisville.

    Louisville's Lamar Jackson gets past Florida State's Matthew Thomas to score in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tallahassee Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) FLSC102