Sanibel record turtle hatchlings this nesting season exceeds expectations

Published: October 31, 2019 4:36 PM EDT
Updated: October 31, 2019 5:42 PM EDT

A record-breaking number of sea turtles were born this nesting season and a conservation foundation in Sanibel Island said red tide played a considerable role.

Slow and steady wins the race as turtles inch closer to the shoreline. In this case, the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation is shell-ebrating after it counted more than 48,000 emerged turtle hatchlings this nesting season. Jack Brzoza, a sea turtle technician at the SCCF, said this year has been remarkable. “Our beaches had a record number of hatchlings that emerged,” he said. “So that was kind of a little bit of a comeback story for us.”

Not to mention, the second-highest number of nests on record for both loggerhead and green sea turtles. One big difference between this season and the last was when and where the red tide bloomed. “Last year, we saw with the red tide, we had some strong nesting numbers,” Brzoza said. “But ultimately, the season was kind of largely punctuated by a mass die-off of a lot of marine life, including a large number of sea turtles.”

Dr. Rick Bartleson, who is a research scientist at the SCCF marine lab, said this year, the red tide was closer to the shore and the food web was not contaminated. “But there’s also not as much food out there for them because last year,” he said, “there was a dead zone that killed a lot of things on the bottom that they ate.”

The SCCF also attributes the success to a record number of volunteer hours logged, totaling over 5,000. While the season is a victory for those at the SCCF, the work does not end when it concludes. “We’re constantly analyzing samples, collecting data, making inferences,” Brzoza said, “so there’s a lot of work to be done still.”