The Southwest Florida sea turtle nesting record will fall this year.
Just 11 weeks into the six-month nesting season, sea turtles on and around Gasparilla Island have deposited 3,131 clutches - just 25 fewer nests than the record 1998 season total of 3,156 - the highest number of Southwest Florida nests since monitoring began in 1988.
2012 will have an asterisk attached to its record number of sea turtle nests because Tropical Storm Debby swamped more than 90 percent of them. All Gasparilla Island nests were washed over with water and buried under 18 inches of sand and seaweed after TS Debby dumped nearly 10 inches of rain in the five days from June 27 through July 1.
Watch out for surprise hatchlings that survived being buried by Tropical Storm Debby.
But the nesters kept coming. The Coastal Wildlife Club reported the Gasparilla Island nest count of 359 as of July 20 was 30 percent ahead of the 277 recorded the same time a year ago.
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 falling 628 short of the record.
It's also the second straight season Mother Nature has issued devastating challenges to the sea turtles with TS Debby in 2012 following on the heels of the deadly January cold snap in 2011. Add in the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and sea turtles have taken it on the chin three consecutive years.
Yet nesting numbers remain on the rise. The CWC covers Gasparilla Island, Manasota Key and Little Gasparilla Island beaches where nesting is up 827 clutches and 36 percent from 2,304 a year ago to 3,131 through July 20. ?
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.