Sea turtle nesting in SWFL winding down, hatchlings continue to emerge

Published: September 15, 2022 5:49 PM EDT
Updated: September 16, 2022 7:55 AM EDT

Most sea turtle nesting has concluded on Sanibel and Captiva islands, but hatchlings continue to emerge.

Baby sea turtles breaking free from their nest is called a nest boil because the turtles come out of the sand so quickly and in such big numbers that this looks like the sand is boiling.

Kelly Sloan is the Coastal Wildlife Director and Sea Turtle Program Coordinator at Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.

“So nest counts on our beaches are really great this year. It’s not a record number compared to some previous years, but it’s really high,” Sloan said.

Sloan remembers when sea turtles struggled to survive.

“So back in the mid-2000s, the loggerhead population was declining. And since then, we’ve seen sort of a reversal, and now the population is considered stable,” Sloan said.

Sea turtles face threats from the second they come out of their nest until they’re adults.

So the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation is doing everything it can to boost the population.

sea turtle nesting
Enclosure made by SCCF for nesting turtles (CREDIT: WINK News)

“We noticed that certain parts of our beaches were experiencing low hatch success. And we wanted to try and figure out why that was happening,” Sloan said.

Annual hatch success on Captiva tends to be considerably lower than on Sanibel, and researchers want to know why.

“So this is the temperature probe and that goes in the center of the clutch. Usually, there’s about 100 eggs on average inside the nest. And this is the moisture probe… it’s got two little prongs. They put that on the edge of the nest to measure the moisture,” Sloan said.

Research from 2021 suggested Captiva Island has coarser sand, and nests are more likely to be exposed to groundwater on Captiva than on Sanibel.

But conditions will likely be different this year due to the recent addition of non-native sand to Captiva Island.

After this season, the team will evaluate their data to see how the incubation environment may have changed after Captiva’s beach renourishment project.

The team hopes what they learn will inform best practices to protect future generations of sea turtles.