By RANDALL P. LIEBERMAN
Palms West Monthly
Posted Nov. 9, 2012
High nesting totals for sea turtles this season have given officials at two sea turtle monitoring stations in northern Palm Beach County hope that one day three species of sea turtles can come off the endangered species list.
At John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in North Palm Beach, park manager Don Bergeron said that – as of Oct. 17 – loggerhead sea turtles have laid a record 1,675 nests in their monitoring area, breaking the previous record of 1,308 set in 1995.
The season officially comes to a close Oct. 31.
Bergeron said leatherback turtles are also having a record-breaking season with 93 nests and green sea turtles are consistent with 227 nests.
“We are thrilled with the numbers this season,” Bergeron said. “Two-thousand nests on 1.6 miles of beach is exciting and gives us hope for the future. No one knows for certain why we are seeing an increase in our numbers, but we suspect that the conservation laws and regulations put in place 20 years ago are taking effect.”
At Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, biologist Kelly J. Martin said that as of Oct. 23, loggerhead sea turtles have laid 6,485 nests, the second highest total since the center has started monitoring Juno Beach in 1990.
Martin said the other species also have relatively-high numbers, with leatherback turtles laying 189 nests and green sea turtles laying 667 nests.
“Loggerhead Marinelife Center biologists have monitored six miles of beach in northern Palm Beach County since 1990,” said Martin. “Juno Beach is one of the most important nesting beaches for loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles. During the 2012 season, so far we have documented 7,341 nests, breaking a record set in 1995.”
The record numbers are in spite of losses suffered due to Tropical Storm Isaac.
“We estimate that we lost four percent of the total number of nests due to Tropical Storm Isaac,” Bergeron said. “But, our beach held up well, and the health of the plants and keeping the wrack line in place added stability to the beach.”
Nesting and weather is only half the battle for sea turtles. Only one in 1,000 hatchlings reaches reproductive maturity. Despite education and new regulations, the greatest threat to the turtles is still incidental capture in fishing gear and egg harvesting by humans.