Sea turtle nesting season officially runs from May 1 to October 31 in Southwest Florida.
This year, it’s getting going a little early.
Volunteers with Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program (STCRP) spotted the first nest of the season on April 18.
“Sea turtles don’t necessary 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,” said Melissa Macksey, senior biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program. “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.”
A loggerhead sea turtle laid the nest. Mote noted loggerheads are the most common species on Southwest Florida nesting beaches, followed by endangered green sea turtles. Teams from Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol conduct long-term studies, documenting the nests and false crawls, and marking each nest with yellow stakes and flagging tape.
The lab’s research shows nest numbers increased recently on Sarasota County beaches, with 4,483 nests between Longboat Key and Venice in 2022.
“Now that we know sea turtle nesting season is underway, we strongly urge beach-goers 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,” said Macksey.
Advice from Mote to protect sea turtles:
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. Stack beach furniture at the dune line or 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.
If you see a sick, injured or stranded sea turtle, dolphin or whale in Sarasota or Manatee county waters, contact Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program at 888-345-2335. Outside of Sarasota or Manatee counties, call the FWC at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
If you suspect that someone is tampering with a sea turtle nest, harassing a sea turtle or has possession of a sea turtle or any of its parts, please call FWC, call your local sheriff’s office.
Sea turtles are protected under federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, their eggs and/or nest marking materials is subject to penalty.