The Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach announced that Palm Beach County smashed the record number of sea turtle nests.
The 9.5-mile Juno Beach now hosts 21,872 turtle nests as of July 30 with still three months left in the nesting season. It beats the end-season total of 18,132 nests last October.
“We are so excited to break this all-time nesting record and can’t wait to see if each sea turtle species breaks its individual record,” said Dr. Justin Perrault, vice president of research at Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
Dr. Perrault credits efforts in protecting the ocean for the booming number of sea turtle nests. “Ocean conservation efforts that have been practiced for decades are finally coming to fruition, and we need to make sure that we continue to protect these animals and their ecosystems,” he said.
Turtles return to the beach where they were born year after year to lay eggs. Various programs offer sea turtles the chance to come back to their native beaches to lay their nests throughout their adult life.
Ocean conservation efforts that have been practiced for decades are finally coming to fruition. —Dr. Justin Perrault, vice president of research at Loggerhead Marinelife Center
The nesting areas include the sands of Juno Beach, Jupiter-Carlin Park and Tequesta and the nesting season is from March 1 to October 31. Most of the nests belong to the loggerhead species, but there are also green and leatherback sea turtles. All these species are considered endangered or threatened.
Nearly 90% of sea turtle nesting in the US happens in Florida, and the beaches of Jupiter, Palm Beach and Boca Raton have the densest nesting grounds in the country.
Turtle patrol volunteers
Saving sea turtles became a crusade for the residents in Palm Beach. Hundreds of committed locals guard the beaches where the turtles nest. From conservationists and research scientists to volunteers and homeowners, they work together to protect the sea turtles.
The volunteers who monitor the nests mark them with wooden stakes and caution tape to alert beach goers so they don’t accidentally trample on the nests. Only a select few long-time volunteers have secured permits to document and perform surveys of activity everyday throughout the nesting season. Sometimes, they have to rescue and release late hatchers at night to give them the best chance of survival of reaching the sea.
“We’re all crazy turtle workaholics,” said Teal Kawana, environmental analyst for Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management (ERM). “You have to be passionate.”
Two facilites in Palm Beach County are dedicated in the rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles—Loggerhead Marinelife Center and Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton. In addition to protecting the marine animals, they also offer several programs, including summer camps and hatchling releases, to help educate the public about caring for sea turtles.
“People love turtles, but we know so little,” said Dr. Jeanette Wyneken from Florida Atlantic University’s Marine Science Laboratory. “These projects couldn’t function without the curiosity of students. They are a whole new set of eyes.”
Florida is not the only state seeing the increase in the number of turtle nests. Baldwin County in Alabama saw an increase in loggerhead and green sea turtle nests. Georgia had 3,960 nests last year, its largest count in 33 years since surveys began in the country.