Coastal Connections, a nonprofit in Vero Beach, conducts a turtle dig, Thursday, July 13, 2023, alongside spectators near Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, 3500 Ocean Drive. To keep Indian River County a successful hatching area for sea turtles, Coastal Connections conducts turtle digs through Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission permits . KAILA JONES/TCPALM

FL - Sea turtle nesting season is breaking records across Treasure Coast

Sea turtle nesting season is breaking records once again across the Treasure Coast.

Through the halfway point of the season, which runs from March to November, loggerhead and green sea turtle nests have reached into the thousands — breaking records set in previous years for both species, according to statistics from Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin counties.

One nine-mile stretch of St Lucie County beach near the Fort Pierce Inlet has seen 5,500 loggerhead nests so far, compared to the previous record of 4,400 nests. Officials counted 1,046 green sea turtle nests there; almost double previous years.

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Indian River County recorded 8,631 loggerhead and 3,981 green nests so far, compared to 7,431 loggerhead and 1,823 green nests in 2022. One section of Martin County beach from the St. Lucie Inlet to the county line also saw increases compared to 2022, with 5,497 loggerhead and 407 green nests.

Leatherbacks, which also nest on the Treasure Coast in smaller numbers, were seen mostly early on in the season, though no new records were set.

Usually, nesting numbers fluctuate every few years. This is linked to yearly alternating breeding cycles sea turtles follow, making this year's records an unexpected but welcomed surprise to scientists.

The nesting numbers are partly attributed to years of conservation work and positive human impact, said Celeste McWilliams, Coastal Connections Sea Turtle Programs coordinator.

“It’s not coincidence we are seeing these numbers as we are coming into the conservation age,” said McWilliams.

With more people living turtle friendly — picking up coastal trash and adhering to nesting season rules — sea turtles are drawn to Treasure Coast beaches in greater numbers. Successful legislation such as the Endangered Species Act and stricter by-catch laws, which required fisheries to utilize turtle-safe nets to avoid accidental capture, have also allowed populations to increase.

According to one Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission study, surveyed Florida beaches saw roughly 40,000 loggerhead, 1,000 green, and 100 leatherback nests between May and August 1989 compared to around 60,000 loggerhead, 25,000 green, and 500 leatherback nests in 2022.

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