Sea turtle nesting on and around Gasparilla Island surpassed last year's six-month total in just nine weeks.
The record pace is bittersweet given the high mortality rate post-Tropical Storm Debby. Nesting numbers don't mean as much now that Tropical Storm Debby has washed away the viability of more than 90 percent of the nests.
But there is a silver lining to consider, according to Coastal Wildlife Club member Wilma Katz.
"Of course, we'd have preferred the nests lost during Tropical Storm Debby to have produced hatchlings, but the high nest numbers, including the nests lost, are in themselves good news because they are the basis for projecting adult populations," Katz said in an e-mail to her CWC mates.
This is the second-straight sturdy season after nearly two decades of significant sea turtle nesting declines. The 2011 season was one of the best in the last 20 years at Manasota, Gasparilla and Little Gasparilla falling 628 short of the record.
This year was even better pre-Debby. Sea turtle nesting on and around Gasparilla Island reached 2,537 the first nine weeks of the six-month nesting season to top last year's final total by nine nests. That pace leaves it 619 nests and 20 percent short of the record 1998 season total of 3,156.
New state sea turtle, manatee decals are out
The 21st edition of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission manatee and sea turtle decals are available at tax offices statewide. The decal program provides funds stat manatee and sea turtle protection.
Donate at least $5 to a protection program to earn a decal.
Back editions of the collectible decals are also available while supplies last.
The full-color waterproof decals are designed to stick on boats or other vehicles.
The CWC covers Boca Grande, Manasota Key and Little Gasparilla Island beaches where nesting is up 733 nests and 40 percent from 1,804 a year ago to 2,537 through July 6. More 2012 nests were laid between May and July than during the entire 2011 nesting season. ?
"Nesting is still very strong although increasingly sporadic. Let's hope the numbers just keep climbing," Katz said.
The CWC reported the Gasparilla Island nest count of 313 as of July 6 was 34 percent ahead of the 234 recorded the same time a year ago.
All Gasparilla Island nests were washed over with water and buried under 18 inches of sand and seaweed after TS Debby hit in the five days from June 27 through July 1. That's why beachgoers today are asked to keep a lookout for unmarked nests.
"With so many nest stakes washed away, please stay alert for surprise hatches," Katz said.
About 3,000 people, mostly volunteers, monitor 800 miles of Florida's nesting beaches, including more than 140 volunteers covering sandy stretches from South Venice to the Boca Grande Pass. Nesting season runs from May through August. Nests incubate 45 to 60 days.
All sea turtle species are considered threatened or endangered under state and federal laws with green turtles particularly rare.
To volunteer for the CVC, contact Grace Harvey of Boca Grande at (941) 964-5642.