SC staff report
The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation is researching the long-term effect of red tide blooms on the maternal health of sea turtles. And the SCCF turtle team has collected 97 samples from nesting females this season.
“Our project will evaluate how toxicity affects the health and reproductive success of these vulnerable species,” said SCCF Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan.
The project, funded by a RESTORE Act grant, is a result of the 2017-2018 red tide bloom in Southwest Florida. It was the longest continuous bloom since 2006 and resulted in the largest number of sea turtle deaths attributed to a single red tide event.
SCCF and the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife documented a staggering 256 sea turtle strandings on Sanibel and Captiva, which accounted for seven times the five-year average.
The results of this study will make it possible to characterize how many seemingly healthy nesting sea turtles test positive for brevetoxin exposure and potentially suffer from impaired maternal health as a result. It will also determine whether the toxins are passed on to the hatchlings through the yolk and how the toxins affect organ development.
In other sea turtle news, Sloan reports green sea turtle Holly was found nesting Sunday, June 14, on Sanibel. Holly was satellite-tagged by Sloan’s team in July of last year near the Lighthouse where she was found nesting. Holly transmitted for 47 days, as she likely migrated down to her foraging grounds in the Keys.
SCCF also reports overall sea turtle nesting has slowed, especially on Sanibel. Captiva remain significantly ahead with 167 nests compared to 83 at this time last year.
On the east end of Sanibel, there are a comparable 85 loggerhead nests to 78 in 2019 and the west end of the island has reached 261 loggerhead nests which is the same as the previous year.
Additionally, Captiva has two leatherback nests. Sanibel’s east end has three green turtle nests and one leatherback nest, while the west end of the island has three leatherback nests.