Tropical Storm Debby swamped more than 90 percent of the sea turtle nests in Southwest Florida but the eggs continue to be laid at a record pace.
This year could set an all-time nesting record (since counting began in 1988). Sea turtle nesting on and around Gasparilla Island reached 2,836 during the first 10 weeks of the six-month nesting season. That is just 320 nests and 10 percent short of the record 1998 season total of 3,156.
Nesting numbers won't translate into a bumper crop of hatchlings now that Tropical Storm Debby drowned the viability of more than 90 percent of the nests.
But the sheer number of nests remains encouraging and now is the time to watch out for the little ones that did survive, according to Coastal Wildlife Club member Wilma Katz.
"Please be on the lookout daily for hatchling tracks," Katz said.
The CWC reported the Gasparilla Island nest count of 335 as of July 13 was 28 percent ahead of the 261 recorded the same time a year ago.
To volunteer for the CVC, contact Grace Harvey of Boca Grande at (941) 964-5642.
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.
This is the second-straight season of elevated sea turtle nesting after nearly two decades of significant 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.
The CWC covers Boca Grande, Manasota Key and Little Gasparilla Island beaches where nesting is up 711 nests and 33 percent from 2,125 a year ago to 2,836 through July 13. ?
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.