Sea turtle nesting on track to continue resurgence along Georgia coast

By David Pendered

Another loggerhead turtle nest was reported Wednesday on St. Catherine’s Island, the latest example of the historic parade of sea turtle procreation on the Georgia coast.

Loggerhead turtles, like the one, crawl ashore to lay eggs in nests along the southeastern coast. File/Credit: noaa.gov

Loggerhead turtles, like the one, crawl ashore to lay eggs in nests along the southeastern coast. File/Credit: noaa.gov

The nest was the 22nd discovered this year on St. Catherine’s and was No. 284 for the entire Georgia coastline, according to figures gathered by the state Department of Natural Resources and reported by seaturtle.org.

The latest discovery continues an upward trend over the past few years of nestings by sea turtles, which are federally designated as a threatened species. Joining the search for sea turtle nests has become a popular pastime for families who vacation along the beaches in Georgia and Florida.

The coastlines of both states are prime nesting areas.

This year’s nesting season began almost on time in Georgia. The first nest was discovered May 9. May 5 is the average arrival of the first female to lay eggs. In 2012, the first nest was discovered April 25 on Cumberland Island.

Mark Dodd, who coordinates Georgia’s sea turtle program, has predicted that 2,272 nests will be found in Georgia this year. The prediction is fewer than the number found last year, but still continues the upward trend that’s been recorded in recent years.

This locator map shows where sea turtle nests have been discovered this year along the Georgia coast. Credit: seaturtle.org

This locator map shows where sea turtle nests have been discovered this year along the Georgia coast. Credit: seaturtle.org

Dodd didn’t reach this projection by himself. He determined the number by taking the average of guesses submitted by members of the Sea Turtle Cooperative, which patrols beaching during nesting season to mark, monitor and protect sea turtle nests. The cooperative is comprised of volunteers, researchers and DNR employees.

Like the conservation efforts for other non-game fish and wildlife, the sea turtle monitoring program is not funded through state appropriations. It operates with money that’s donated or raised, according to DNR.

Here is the number of loggerhead nests reported by Georgia DNR:

  • 2013 – 2,289
  • 2012 – 2,241
  • 2011 – 1,992
  • 2010 – 1,760

And here is the report card for sea turtle nests reported through Wednesday:

  • Nest – 284
  • Nests not disturbed – 156
  • Nests relocated – 128
  • Click on the image to see a larger version. Credit: seaturtle.org

    Click on the image to see a larger version. Credit: seaturtle.org

    Nests moved to hatchery – 1

  • Number of eggs incubating – 279
  • Number of eggs lost – 5 (1.7 percent)
  • False crawls (no eggs laid) – 225
  • First nest – Cumberland Island (loggerhead), May 9
  • Most recent nest – St. Catherine’s Island (loggerhead) June 11
  • Estimated eggs to date – 15,330
  • Mean eggs per nest – 118.6 (relocated only)

Florida wildlife officials contend that more sea turtles are found along those beaches than any other part of the U.S. coastline.

The sea turtle nesting season started March 1 in Florida, and officials are anticipating another record year in part because nestings have continued well beyond the traditional end of nesting season, in October.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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