SC Staff Report
The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation reports sea turtle nesting season is off to a great start with one loggerhead nest on Sanibel and Captiva, along with a rare leatherback nest on Sanibel – totaling three nests.
The first loggerhead nest on April 8 broke the record for the earliest nest, beating the Kemp’s ridley nest in 2018 by eight days. Prior to this year, the earliest nest for a loggerhead, the most common species, was April 20, 2012 on Captiva.
“The gulf water is pretty warm so that may be leading to an early nesting season,” said Coastal Wildlife Director Kelly Sloan. She added the beaches are more empty than normal with the closing of county and city beach parking lots.
However, several boats are anchoring off Sanibel and people are coming ashore. Sloan reminds boaters and beachgoers to be mindful of near-shore sea turtles and keep the beaches clear of litter.
Sea turtle nesting season runs from April 15 to Oct. 31. Disturbances, such as artificial light, interfere with nesting activities. Thousands of hatchlings, which use the light of the night sky to navigate to the water, die each year in Florida due to artificial light along the beach.
A female turtle can also become disoriented by artificial lighting, as well as loud noises and people approaching too close. These things can result in a “false crawl” and the female returning to the Gulf without laying her eggs.
Sanibel has beachfront lighting standards, which are enforced each year, for those reasons. Residents spending extra time at home due to the virus pandemic has made it especially important for beachfront properties to keep outside lights off after dark, shield seaward light structures and ensure exterior beachfront lighting is compliant with the city’s regulations.
To report any issues with sea turtle nests, nesting turtles or hatchlings, contact SCCF’s Sea Turtle Hotline at 978-728-3663.