SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Sarasota County’s first sea turtle nest of the 2022 nesting season was discovered over the weekend.

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program (STCRP) documented the first nest at the southern end of Longboat Key on Sunday.

Sea turtle nesting season officially begins May 1 and lasts through Oct. 31. STCRP began monitoring 35 miles of beaches from Longboat Key to Venice earlier in April, under permits issued by the state.

“Once again, sea turtles have arrived on our beaches just before the official start of season,” said Melissa Macksey, STCRP Conservation Manager & Senior Biologist.

Macksey leads local sea turtle conservation efforts with the help of hundreds of trained volunteers, who search for turtle crawls (or tracks) at the crack of dawn.

Last year, a total of 3,786 nets were counted by STCRP, the fourth-highest count in Mote’s 40 years of monitoring.

Those interested in keeping up with the numbers of nests being monitored by STCRP can follow along on their website.