Kennard Watson, the director of Panama City Beach Turtle Watch, is optimistic about the possibility of an improvement in the population of an endangered species of sea turtle in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to Watson, nine out of the 46 nests tagged by the group during the current nesting season were laid by green sea turtles.
This marks an increase of seven green sea turtle nests compared to the previous season and two more than the 2020 season, which previously held the local record for the species.
The sea turtle nesting season in Panama City Beach extends from the beginning of May until the end of October.
“We seem to be seeing more occurrences of green turtles showing up on our beaches, which is encouraging,” stated Watson. “There might be at least a hint of an increasing population in the Gulf for that species.”
He also mentioned that the remaining 37 nests tagged this season were all laid by loggerhead sea turtles, which are the most common species in local waters.
In the previous season, Panama City Beach Turtle Watch tagged 44 nests, with two being laid by green sea turtles and the rest by loggerheads.
Although the total number of nests for this season was higher than last season, it still fell short by 11 nests compared to the group’s record year in 2017.
Watson acknowledged that 2023 was still a pretty good year, even though it did not set any “all-time records” for PCB Turtle Watch.
“We didn’t have a super great year for loggerhead nesting,” he said. “They are holding their own, but there’s no sign of a solid recovery in loggerheads based on the nest numbers we’ve seen in the past several years.”
Last season, Panama City Beach had a ‘near record’ sea turtle nesting season, but long-term concerns persist.
As a local nonprofit organization, PCB Turtle Watch is responsible for identifying and protecting sea turtle nests along approximately 18 miles of beaches in the Panama City Beach area, spanning from St. Andrews State Park to Camp Helen State Park.
Watson emphasized that one of the most significant threats to the local sea turtle population is artificial lighting along the coast.
He expressed hope that some of these impacts will be addressed through ongoing efforts to revamp Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach.
“We’re continuously seeking new ways to improve the protection of these nests when they’re laid and when the hatchlings emerge,” Watson stated. “Our primary focus remains addressing the lighting problem in terms of hatchlings.”
How Many Eggs Does A Normal Sea Turtle Lay?
Sea turtle clutches typically contain around 100 eggs, but this number can vary among different subspecies.
For example, flatback sea turtles lay approximately 50 eggs per clutch, while hawksbill sea turtles may deposit up to 200 eggs at a time.
Sea turtles lay the largest egg clutches among all turtle species, and a healthy gravid sea turtle generally deposits around 100 eggs at a time.
During each nesting season, a sea turtle lays multiple clutches with a two-week gap in between, resulting in the mother turtle depositing hundreds of eggs each year.
It was previously believed that the body size of the female turtle determined the egg quantity, but recent studies have disproved this theory.
Researchers now claim that there is no direct link between sea turtle physique and clutch size. Instead, they have observed an age pattern, suggesting that sea turtles lay more eggs as they grow older, and the size of the eggs correlates with the female body size.
It is normal for a green sea turtle, or any sea turtle, to deposit varying numbers of eggs in different nesting seasons.
A green sea turtle depositing 40 eggs in one season and 100 eggs in another is within the normal range and indicates that the turtle is healthy and following biological patterns.
Sea turtles can exhibit variability in clutch size from season to season, and this is a natural part of their reproductive behavior. Interested in learning more? Check out this article on How Many Eggs Does A Sea Turtle Lay?