To the Editor;
Coastal Wildlife Club sea turtle patrol volunteers monitor the nesting beaches of Manasota Key, Gasparilla Island,and Little Gasparilla Island. We had documented nearly 2,000 nests of loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species, and nine green and one Kemp's ridley nest, both endangered species, before July 27.
Then Tropical Storm Debby destroyed most of these nests by continuously soaking some and washing others into the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, only a trickle of hatchlings rather than tens of thousands made their way into the Gulf from those nests.
Strong nesting continued, though, and now, some seven weeks later, CWC volunteers have documented 3,478 loggerhead nests: 2,974 on Manasota Key, 388 on Gasparilla Island, and 116 on LGI; the single Kemp's ridley nest; and 34 nests of green sea turtles, most of those on Manasota Key in Sarasota County. Numbers are current as of Aug. 10.
These totals including nests lost in June are part of the data used to project adult sea turtle populations, so they are extremely important as well as encouraging.
Nearly 1,500 nests were documented after the June storm. Hatching is imminent for the first of these nests and for any unmarked nests laid during the storm but missed by patrollers unable to access the beaches.
This week could be lethal, though, for little sea turtles emerging from nests. Hatchlings are guided to the water by the lighter, open horizon of the night sky over the sea. Adult females are guided back to the sea similarly after nesting. Both can be led fatally astray by our lights.
At the new moon Aug. 17, and for several nights before and after, the night sky is darkest. At this time, even dim lights pose a threat to sea turtles.
There were few July hatchling disorientations because there were virtually no hatchlings to be led astray.
This month is different. Help is needed from residents, visitors, and beachgoers to prevent additional loss of August hatchlings to man-made threats.
Sea turtles need dark beaches so they'll see the right light. Regardless of color, all lights visible from the beach should be shielded or off.
Before leaving the beach, fill any holes that can trap tiny turtles and remove picnic remains, which attract predators such as crows, laughing gulls and raccoons.
Coastal Wildlife Club