Hurricane Idalia’s Impact: Sea Turtle Nests Washed Away, Yet Season Declared a Success

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Hurricane Idalia had an impact on the turtle nesting season in Pinellas County in late August, but it was noted that the storm’s timing may have actually lessened its impact.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium typically counts around 300 sea turtle nests each season along a 21-mile stretch of beaches in northern Pinellas.

During the season that ended in October, a total of 227 nests were counted, according to Carly Oakley, a senior biologist in the Sea Turtle Conservation Program at the aquarium.

When Hurricane Idalia passed through, Oakley mentioned that the damage to nests could have been much worse if the storm had occurred earlier.


She explained, “It was towards the end of our nesting season. So, we only had 75 nests left on our beaches when the hurricane came through, and then afterwards … we were able to actually reestablish 14 of those nests.”

This suggests that the storm’s impact was mitigated by the fact that many of the nests had already hatched, and efforts were made to reestablish some of the remaining nests after the storm had passed.

“Reestablish” refers to the process in which scientists use GPS locations to remark the remaining clutches or nests that were affected by the storm.

Despite the impact of Hurricane Idalia, sea turtles have shown resilience, as each female typically lays more than one nest per season.

Female sea turtles can lay three-to-seven clutches in a season, each containing 80-to-120 eggs. They take breaks in between to replenish their energy after the effort of producing numerous eggs.

The primarily nesting sea turtles along Pinellas are loggerhead turtles, with rare occurrences of green sea turtles and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles laying eggs there.

Loggerheads are known to nest in only two locations: Florida and Oman, which is in the southeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium played a crucial role in helping 12,000 hatchlings make it to the sea this year.

Biologists’ main concern regarding storms and turtle nests is beach loss. Pinellas experienced some loss of elevation and dune line on its beaches due to the storm.

When tidal waters rise, particularly during king tides, the flooding can lead to the loss of sand and clutches, making it difficult to reestablish all affected nests.

The full impact of the season won’t be known until the next nesting season. Oakley emphasized the importance of caring for the wellbeing of sea turtles, as they play a significant role in the food web and are considered threatened and endangered.


During nesting season, humans can help by keeping the beaches dark, clean, and flat, allowing turtles easy access to and from the beach.

This also applies to hatchlings, as they need clear pathways to orient themselves toward the sea.

Despite the challenges, Oakley expressed gratitude for the outcome of the nesting season, considering the timing of the storm as fortunate compared to previous seasons that were affected by multiple tropical storms.

How Many Eggs Does A Sea Turtle Lay?

The giant Asian softshell turtle, box turtle, map turtle, and snapping turtle lay 24 to 70, 8 to 9, 10 to 12, and 20 to 40 eggs, respectively, in a single clutch.

Did you know how many eggs a gravid sea turtle can lay? Reports indicate that a female sea turtle can lay 40 to 200 eggs in a single clutch.

That’s correct. Sea turtles can lay up to 200 eggs, and in rare cases, the clutch may contain even more.

This makes the clutch size of marine turtles significantly larger compared to aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles.

The number of eggs in a sea turtle clutch varies depending on the species. With 7 subspecies of sea turtles, each having distinct physical appearances and characteristics, it can sometimes be confusing to identify them. Here’s an easy trick to help you determine the species of turtle. Learn more here, How Many Eggs Does A Sea Turtle Lay?

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About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.


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