Florida Researchers Predict Sea Turtle Baby Boom Following Coronavirus Beach Closures
Much to the chagrin of sun-worshippers, Florida’s vacant beaches turned out to be paradise for nesting sea turtles.
Approximately 90% of sea turtle nesting in the United States happens on Florida’s beaches. With the state’s beaches closed for a period in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, researchers say that sea turtles may have been able to build with less disruptions—good news for the threatened creatures.
Back in April, David Godfrey, Executive Director for the Sea Turtle Conservancy, told CNN that less garbage, fewer people, and less disorientation caused by artificial lights for hatchlings bode well for this year’s nesting season.
During the months it takes for the eggs to incubate and for hatchlings to emerge, nests are at the mercy of humans. On an active beach, nests can be trampled or dug up. With an inactive beach, the situation proved different. And now, it looks like we might have a sea turtle baby boom on our hands.
“We actually did find a significant difference during the beach closures and then after in terms of a successful rate of nesting,” Justin Perrault, director of research at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, told National Geographic. The center has observed approximately 17,000 nests along Juno, Jupiter-Carlin, and Tequesta beaches this year. “During the closures, loggerheads successfully nested 61% of the time,” he added. “When the beaches reopened, that number dropped to 46%.”
On the southwestern Gulf coast, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Sea Turtle Program, which surveys 18 miles of beach between Sanibel Island and Redfish Pass, documented 926 loggerhead nests this year, a new record.
Despite the positive news, sea turtles remain threatened by poaching, hurricanes, pollution, climate change and numerous other dangers.
Perrault told CNN that it’s essential that they keep lights off when possible, maintain distance from marine animals, and leave the beach the way they found it.
"Remember that we're not the only species out there," he said.