2012 sea turtle nesting season record-breaking

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SARASOTA - This year's sea turtle nesting season officially ended October 31 with only one nest still left on Casey Key.  And despite two tropical storms disrupting some of the nests, scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory said it was a record-setting season.

After months of seeing those colorful stakes out on our beaches and sometimes even little hatchlings making their journey to the sea, the 2012 sea turtle nesting season has come to an end surpassing a 31-year record of nests.

"Mote Marine Laboratory Sea Turtle Patrol documented about 2,462 sea turtle nests in our areas which is Longboat Key through Venice," said Mote public relations specialist Hayley Rutger. 

Rutger said it is a good thing as loggerhead turtles are a threatened species.

"We have about three decades, over 3 decades of sea turtle data that's roughly how long it would take a loggerhead to get to maturity.  The ones that were born here might be coming back to us now, which is pretty neat," Rutger said, adding that the numbers can also depend on the water temperature or large scale variations such as the North Atlantic Oscillation.  

"Scientists are thinking that might affect long term trends of sea turtle nesting," she said.

However there are things that can negatively impact the final number of nests, such as tropical storms.

"Tropical Storm Debby at least washed away about 950 nests for our estimation and washed away a lot of the supplies," Rutger said.

One thing we should take from this season or any season in general is the importance of making sure we're taking care of our little hatchlings so they don't get lost.

"From things like artificial lights that are visible from the beach, that's something that we still continue to see a decent amount of from year to year," said Rutger.

That is why it is important to make sure your home or business is "turtle nesting season friendly" before it starts again on May 1.

The Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Competition next weekend will benefit sea turtle research, rehab and conservation efforts at Mote Marine Laboratory.    

You can also donate by going to www.mote.org/donate or get more information on sea turtles at www.mote.org/turtlehelp.