Sea turtle nesting season officially started on April 15th, 2022, and will last through October.
As of April 7, the SCCF had recorded no early activity or false crawls.
Sea turtle monitoring originally began on Sanibel in the 1950s with Charles LeBuff and Caretta Research Inc., making it one of the longest-running monitoring programs in the country. When Caretta Research disbanded in 1992, the SCCF took over the program and continues to manage it today.
Loggerhead is the most common marine turtle species to nest on the islands, followed by the green sea turtle. Leatherbacks and Kemp’s ridleys are rarer, but they have nested on Sanibel-Captiva before.
Loggerheads typically are about 2 feet to 3 feet long and weigh 150 to 300 pounds. With large, bulky block-like heads and powerful jaws — how they got their name — they prey on hard-shelled mollusks, whelks and conches. Females lay three to six nests per year on average but nest every couple of years.
Green sea turtles are bigger, about 3 feet to 3 1/2 feet and weighing upward of 350 or 400 pounds. Their head is small relative to their body, and they are named “green” because their fat is green-colored due to a mostly vegetarian diet of seagrass and algae. Greens lay three to six nests every other year.
Leatherbacks are the largest of the species, growing up to 6 feet in length and weighing 500 to 1,500 pounds. With a diet that consists almost entirely of jellyfish, they do not have a typical “hard shell” like the others; theirs is a “leathery-skin” shell with seven distinct ridges along it, which serves a purpose. Nesting every couple of years, leatherback turtles typically lay five to eight nests.
The Kemp’s are the smallest of the sea turtle species. They average about 1 foot to 2 feet in length and can weigh 50 to 100 pounds. Kemp’s ridleys are omnivorous so they will eat a range of different prey, including crustaceans, mollusks, and fish.
Nesting every one to three years, they lay two to four nests — but not at night, like the other species. In the 2021 season, the SCCF recorded a total of 931 nests and 46,796 hatchlings.
Broken down by species, there were 904 loggerhead nests and 45,063 hatchlings. For greens, there were 27 nests and 1,733 hatchlings. No leatherback nor Kemp’s nests were recorded last season.
As for 2022, regional evidence shows an increasing nesting trend over the years.
You can help sea turtles that nest on Florida’s beaches, you just need to follow below rules
- Turn off or shield all lights that are visible from the beach. Do not use flashlights or cell phone lights on the beach. If necessary, use amber or red LED bulbs.
- Do not disturb the screens covering nests. They prevent predators from eating the eggs and the hatchlings emerge through the holes without assistance.
- Remove all beach furniture and equipment from the beach at night.
- Dispose of fishing line properly to avoid wildlife entanglement.
Fill in large holes that can trap hatchlings and nesting sea turtles.
- Do not disturb nesting turtles – please do not to get too close, shine lights on, or take flash photos of nesting sea turtles.
Pick up litter.
In addition, boaters can do their part to keep the surrounding waters sea turtle-friendly by:
- Avoid the area along the beach, if possible.
- Having a designated spotter on the boat to look out for sea turtles.
- Wearing polarized sunglasses to help with spotting sea turtles.
- Going as slow as possible in areas where sea turtles are or might be.