Summary of 2012 sea turtle nesting season and habitat restoration activity
Coastal Cleanup Corporation
Although sea turtles don't really begin nesting until early May, 2012 sea turtle conservation efforts began much earlier in the year. Through the Alternative Breaks programs, 243 college students from across the nation spent 2900 hours cleaning up the beaches of Elliott Key from January through April. These students partnered with park staff to successfully complete the manual removal of hundreds of pounds of trash, consisting largely of plastic and glass debris. One noteworthy accomplishment was the piling of all large woody debris that had washed up on the shore. These large items pose particular challenges to sea turtles, which are adapted for life in the sea and thus cannot easily traverse over large debris, such as shipping pallets, dead trees, and wooden furniture. The piles of large woody debris were then burned under a permitted burn protocol, thereby clearing the beaches of these nesting obstacles. Biscayne National Park extends an extra special thanks to all of the hard-working students who dedicated their school breaks to helping us restore sea turtle nesting beach habitats!
Resource managers, interns, and volunteers have been hard at work monitoring and protecting nesting beaches. The staff is able to monitor the known nesting beaches almost every day, pending foul weather. Daily patrols occur early in the mornings to increase the chances of detecting sea turtle activity. Finding the nests early reduces the chance that they are destroyed by raccoons or other hungry predators. The staff protects all newly deposited eggs with mesh screens (as depicted in the image below), which are removed later in the season to allow hatchlings to emerge and journey to the ocean.
The Biscayne National Park sea turtle monitoring staff has kept extremely busy because the park has seen a large amount of sea turtle activity! The table below summarizes 2012 sea turtle nesting activity to date. Please check back often as we will be making updates throughout the nesting season.
On July 17th 2012, the park staff was able to excavate the first deposited nest of the year. Excavations occur after the 60 day incubation maximum to insure that all hatchlings are able to emerge undisturbed. Unfortunately many of the eggs in the nest failed to develop. This happens frequently due to inundation from high tides, bacterial infections, and other disturbances. Although it is impossible to tell exactly why this nest was unsuccessful, the excavation still provided the park with valuable data to promote the success of future nests.
· Most false crawls appeared to be the result of vegetation and roots impeding the digging of the nest rather than from debris on the beach, so it appears that clean-up efforts are helping!
· Raccoon presence in sea turtle nesting areas has been high, which further stresses the importance of daily beach patrols to find and protect new nests before the raccoons discover their next meal.
· We have arrived at hatchling season. Check back frequently for updates on the remaining nest excavations!
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Coastal Cleanup Corporation