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County reports above average sea turtle nesting on barrier island’s beaches

STORY BY SUE COCKING (Week of December 3, 2020)

The 2020 sea turtle nesting season on Indian River County beaches didn't set any records but green turtles dug many more nests than expected and leatherbacks dug the most nests in a decade.

Overall, the endangered marine reptiles dug higher numbers of nests than long-term averages.

Between April 1 and Oct. 31, loggerhead sea turtles – the most common of three species that lay eggs on our beaches – dug 6,217 nests. That’s 58 more than last year and well above the 16-year average of 4,955, according to figures provided by Quintin Bergman, the county’s sea turtle coordinator. The county record for loggerhead nesting is 7,197, set in 2016.

Green turtles, which nest in a cyclical pattern of up-and-down years, laid many more nests than expected.

“During the 2020 season, we would have expected around 250 nests,” Bergman wrote in an email to Vero Beach 32963. “We were happily surprised to record a total of 1,154.” That compares to 2,378 in 2019 and 235 in 2018, an off year like 2020 was expected to be.

As for leatherbacks, the largest and least common species on our beaches, there were 73 nests – again, a “surprise,” according to Bergman.

“With the 16-year average being 52, we expected around 30-40 nests,” he wrote, adding this was the most since 2010 when leatherbacks dug 87 nests.
The sea turtle species live in the open ocean and may travel thousands of miles to lay their eggs on the Treasure Coast beaches where they were born.