SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The first local sea turtle nest of the 2023 season was spotted this week!
The Mote Marine Laboratory said the nest was spotted on Tuesday in Sarasota County at Casey Key.
According to Mote, the laboratory’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program (STCRP), interns and approximately 300 volunteers began monitoring Sarasota area beaches on April 15.
The laboratory said the nest was spotted a little early – just three days after patrolling began.
Mote stated that once sea turtle nesting officially begins, their Sea Turtle Patrol will monitor the nesting activity on Longboat Key through Venice every day during the season.
Sea turtle nesting season in southwest Florida begins on May 1 and ends on Oct. 31.
“Sea turtles don’t necessarily stick to the calendar, so we typically start patrolling a few weeks before the official season, and we’re glad we do, otherwise, we might not have found this nest today,” Melissa Macksey, Senior Biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program said in a statement. “Today marks the earliest documented nest in our program’s history, which might mean, we’re in for a busy season, and it is more important than ever before that we do as much as we can to keep our beaches turtle-friendly.”
Mote said the first nest was laid by a loggerhead sea turtle, which is a threatened species protected under federal law. Loggerhead turtles are also the most common species on southwest Florida nesting beaches, followed by endangered green turtles.
In recent years, the laboratory shared that Sarasota County has also hosted a handful of endangered Kemp’s ridleys, among the smallest and rarest sea turtles.
According to Mote’s research, nest numbers have increased recently on local beaches, with several record-breaking years in the past decade. In 2022, Mote reported 4,483 nests on Longboat Key through Venice.
The public will be able to view Mote’s weekly counts of sea turtle nests online here.
“Now that we know sea turtle nesting season is underway, we strongly urge beachgoers to enjoy our beautiful beaches while making sure we do our part for these sea turtles that are endangered and threatened species that have been nesting here for millions of years,” Macksey said.
While the summer season is nearing, Mote urges beachgoers to use caution when spotting sea turtle nests. Here are a few ways to protect sea turtles while out and about:
- If you encounter a nesting turtle or hatchlings, remain quiet and observe from a distance.
- Shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October.
- Close drapes after dark and stack beach furniture at the dune line or, ideally, remove it from the beach.
- Fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water.
- Approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles.
- Use flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach.
- Encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water.
- Use fireworks on the beach.
- For more details, refer to local sea turtle ordinances, including Sarasota County’s marine turtle protection code (which includes Lido, Siesta, Casey and Manasota Keys), the City of Venice marine turtle protection ordinance and the Town of Longboat Key marine turtle protection ordinance. An updated Longboat Key ordinance took effect in 2022. For questions about any sea turtle code or ordinance, contact code enforcement staff from each municipality.
On the water
- Follow Coast Guard-approved safe boating guidelines and use vigilance to avoid striking sea turtles and other large marine life.
- Be sure to stow trash and line when under way. Marine debris that accidentally blows overboard or out of a truck can become ingested by or entangled around marine life.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to better see marine life in your path.
While viewing any large marine animals, follow 10 viewing tips (designed for dolphins, but suitable for other large marine species too). Click here for a PDF.
Anyone who spots a sick, injured or stranded sea turtle, dolphin or whale in Sarasota or Manatee county waters, is asked to contact Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program at 888-345-2335. Outside of Sarasota or Manatee counties, beachgoers are asked to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 888-404-FWCC (3922).