Huge increase in green turtle nests recorded in 2013

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SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. - Once nearly extinct, the green sea turtle is now coming back in record numbers. More than 25,000 nests were counted this year around the state; that's more than double the previous record.

Local turtle trackers on the Suncoast say we are also seeing twice as many.

"It's important that the Endangered Species Act included these animals," says Hayley Rutger at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota. From Longboat Key to Caspersen Beach, turtle trackers with Mote found 30 of their nests this year -- up from 14 the year before. "We think it is great news that the numbers are up. We know that from the state of Florida records that the green sea turtles have been showing an uptick since they've been keeping record in 1989."

When researchers first started taking count in 1989 they found fewer than 500 green sea turtle nests.

The good numbers on the Suncoast are even better news all around Florida.

"Astounded…it was certainly not what we expected the numbers to be," says Rutger.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that at 26 state beaches, more than 25,000 green sea turtle nests were tagged this year.

"It's hard to pinpoint a specific reason behind it. One thing you see over time are the conservation efforts that have been in place," says Rutger.

Believe it or not at one point you could even harvest the eggs. Those with Mote say research and education efforts have helped; getting the public not to touch and little things like removing items on the beach and proper lighting making a difference.

The work is never-ending, though. "There still remains an ongoing challenge. We still get the disorientation of hatchlings that lose their way to the water because of lighting. We still have to rescue hatchlings. There are still challenges."

That’s good news for the annual visitors; a pat on the back for those making sure they keep coming back. "To everyone that has played a role in keeping the beaches natural for the turtles, it’s a great thing that they have done."

Now while the number of green sea turtle nest went up this year, the amount of loggerhead turtle nests went down, from around 58,000 last year to fewer than 45,000 this year.

Last year however was a record number for them both here at home and around the state.

The leatherback sea turtle is also on the endangered list. Their nest count was down from more than 500 last year to a little more than 300 this year.