The sea turtle nesting season in Broward County, as documented by the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program, was one for the record books in 2023.
A total of 4,328 nests were documented along the entire coastline, excluding the Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park, marking a new record.
Professor Jeanette Wyneken from Florida Atlantic University has been studying sea turtles for almost 40 years and believes that the Endangered Species Act is having a good impact on sea turtle conservation efforts.
She noted that when she first started working with turtles in Florida, loggerheads were seen regularly, green turtles were nesting but never in large numbers, and the number of leatherbacks could be counted on two hands and two feet.
This season was the first time in the history of the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program that numbers were up for all species of sea turtles in the area, including 3,445 loggerheads, 798 green turtles, and 85 leatherbacks.
The increase in sea turtle nests is a positive sign for the conservation efforts of these endangered species.
Although the increase in sea turtle nesting numbers in Broward County is a positive sign, researchers are concerned about the impact of climate change and extreme heat temperatures on the male-to-female ratio of some turtle populations.
The temperature of the sand determines the sex of the sea turtle hatchling, and when it’s hot, more females are born, which can affect the natural balance.
Professor Jeanette Wyneken from Florida Atlantic University expressed concern about the low number of male sea turtles, which could have a significant impact on the population.
She also noted that when temperatures get too warm, embryos cannot survive, leading to their death in the nest.
Despite these challenges, the 2023 sea turtle nesting season in Florida broke records across the entire state, according to an annual survey by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
However, threats such as artificial lighting can still endanger the population, highlighting the importance of continued conservation efforts.
To report sick, injured, dead, or entangled sea turtles, individuals can call FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888) 404-3922.
When Do Sea Turtles Begin Traveling?
Sea turtles embark on a lifelong journey that begins with their first swim to the sea.
During the nesting season, thousands of female sea turtles come to the shore to lay their eggs in nests before leaving the spot.
After a long incubation period, hatchlings emerge from the fertile eggs.
However, the land is not a safe place for sea turtle babies. They must quickly make their way to the sea, facing many predators along the way.
Many hatchlings do not survive the first critical 48 hours after emerging from the nest.
Even in the sea, sea turtle hatchlings and juveniles face predators such as dolphins, sharks, and killer whales.
As a result, 50 to 60 percent of sea turtle babies and juveniles die every year. Surviving sea turtles must constantly move around to stay safe in the sea.
Once male sea turtles enter the sea, they never return to land.
However, when female hatchlings mature, they return to their nesting place to lay their eggs, continuing the cycle of life for sea turtles. Learn more here, How Far Do Sea Turtles Travel?