Mote tracks green sea turtles as record nest numbers hit the Suncoast

Mote tracks green sea turtles as record nest numbers hit the Suncoast
Mote tracks green sea turtles as record nest numbers hit the Suncoast (Source: Taylor Torregano)

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - This year officially broke the record for the highest number of green sea turtle nests on the Suncoast.

Mote said they’re significantly less common than the loggerheads known to frequent the area, but both species are still considered threatened.

There were over 4,000 loggerhead nests this summer and only 135 green sea turtle nests, which is still the most the Suncoast has seen.

“My favorite sea animal are actually turtles," said Junah Palmer as he gazed at "Hang Tough,” the green turtle at Mote.

The 11-year-old visiting from Germany is ahead of his time, already realizing the importance of keeping the sea turtles safe.

“Because if you won’t help them, they will get extinct and we won’t see their nice features anymore,” Palmer said.

To keep that from happening, Mote is tracking their journeys.

“We’re putting satellite tags on them to track them to where they go in between nesting as well as where they go when they’re finished with their nesting season," said Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist with the sea turtle conservation and research program at Mote Marine Laboratory.

We’re nearing the end of nesting season now and after laying six nests, one of the seven green turtles Mote tagged just left the Suncoast.

“So [these are] the tracks, and this is Casey Key," showed Mazzarella using Mote’s satellite map on her phone. "[The turtle] coming out and going back in and nesting over and over again. And then when she was done, yesterday she started heading south, so she is down near Charlotte Harbor.”

When they’re done nesting, they migrate as far as international waters to rest for a couple of years. One went to the Yucatan Peninsula and another chose the Florida Keys.

Mote wants to protect the turtles on this journey by getting a better idea of where they’re going so biologists can identify the hazards.

“If a turtle goes to Tampa Bay, then we know there’s lots of boaters there, we know there’s lots of fishing, there’s a lot of people, so there could be a lot of plastic debris," Mazzarella said. “Those are the kinds of things that we can identify as hazards in the areas where they live.”

Biologists notify state or county officials of the hazards the turtles encountered. Those officials then make decisions about the safest way humans can co-exist with the turtles in those areas.

“Most of the threats to sea turtles, especially the bigger ones, are gonna be from human-induced," Mazzarella added.

In fact, Mote said 15 of 50 sea turtles have shown evidence of human-interaction already this year.

Of those 15, 11 were specifically hit by boats.

Mote is warning boaters to be on the look out, mind slow speed zones, wear polarized glasses, have a “spotter” on the boat to watch for wildlife, stow the trash, and anyone who sees trash floating is asked to stop to pick it up.

This is turtle season so Mote said more animals are around and closer to shore for mating and nesting.

Be mindful that the water is their home, we are visitors in their house, and we need to be respectful.

To track the sea turtles, click here.

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