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Island turtle nests up 60 percent over last year at this time


The island’s turtle nesting season is “off to a great start,” up 60 percent from last year at this time, according to Indian River County’s new sea turtle coordinator Quintin Bergman.

As of May 17, Bergman reported a total of 533 nests along the county’s 22.5 miles of beaches that stretch from Sebastian Inlet to Round Island Park. Of those, 521 nests were laid by loggerheads and 12 by leatherbacks. No green turtle nests have been observed yet.

At this time last year, turtle trackers counted 303 loggerhead nests and 22 leatherbacks for a total of 325.

As for the absence of green turtles? “Usual and expected,” Bergman told Vero Beach 32963. “Last year, the first green nest arrived June 10.”

Nesting season officially opened March 1 and will officially close Oct. 31, though the animals follow their own schedules. Bergman said nesting typically peaks in July.

The Sebastian Inlet District’s beach renourishment project south of the inlet, which began in January and concluded last month, has had no impact on nesting, according to Bergman. In fact, he said, “Multiple nests have been laid in the newly-placed dune already.”

Some beachgoers have noticed a thick cover of sargassum – a common type of natural floating brown seaweed – washing ashore on some sections of our coast, but Bergman says nesting turtles are dealing with it just fine. He said the seaweed serves as habitat for numerous creatures both at sea and ashore.

Bergman urges oceanfront residents and business owners to close window shades and curtains and extinguish outdoor lights by 9 p.m. each night to keep beaches as dark as possible.

Manmade lights shining on the beach can discourage females from nesting and disorient hatchlings, when they mistake lights ashore for the light of the moon and stars reflecting off the sea and crawl inland instead of back to the ocean where they belong. Violators of “dark beach” ordinances face fines and even jail time for the worst offenses.

Bergman says not every nest is marked with stakes and orange tape, so pet owners should prevent their dogs from digging anywhere in the sand.