Nesting season officially begins May 1 with new awareness campaign, plans for rule-enforcement.
The first sea turtle nests of the 2018 season were found on Longboat Key on Friday morning, the Mote Marine Laboratory said.
Two nests, one in the Sarasota portion of Longboat Key and the other in the Manatee County portion, were laid by loggerhead turtles, a release from Mote said. Loggerheads are threatened but are the most commonly seen on Florida’s gulf beaches.
The nesting season runs from May 1 to Oct. 31. This season, Longboat Key Turtle Watch, in partnership with Ringling College of Art and Design, created a new awareness campaign with the motto “Flip a switch, make a move.”
Vice President Cyndi Seamon and other Turtle Watch volunteers have distributed the posters to hotels and property managers across both counties of Longboat Key in hopes of reaching visitors and residents alike. Along with posters, volunteers have passed out door hangers as well.
“I think really our mission is to continue to educate best we can and make it fun,” she said. “We’re really excited about ‘Flip a switch, make a move’ because it’s fun. It looks fun.”
Along with the campaign, the group has been a force in the new turtle-protection rules and their enforcement. Seamon said she thinks the citation process has collected “a little more steam.”
Last summer, three turtles got tangled in chairs left overnight on the beach. Although two turtles released themselves, one turtle and chair were never found. Last summer also brought a 207 disorientations, 16 of them adults, compared to 165 last year.
“We had a lot of adult disorientations, like more than I’ve ever seen, which to get an adult to disorient takes a lot,” Seamon said. “It doesn’t take a lot to get a little hatchling to go the wrong way.”
Last year, turtles that nested on Longboat Key broke the record set in 2016. In 2017, 1,260 loggerhead nests and 17 green sea turtle nests were counted. The total in 2016 was 1,184.
“We don’t really know what to expect,” Mote Marine Laboratory Senior Biologist Melissa Bernhard said. “They have been a little unpredictable, but the numbers have been increasing overall the last 10 or so years, so we’re expecting a good year. We don’t know if that means they’ll be on par with the last couple of years or a record year.”