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How well are sea turtles actually doing?

Posted 2022-12-31

Final sea turtle nest counts are in for 2022!

It was an excellent year for total nest counts. These numbers sound great, and we can celebrate them. However, we have to understand the complete sea turtle health picture may be less remarkable.

These numbers represent sea turtles that are healthy enough to reproduce. Those nest numbers are great. The problem is we are now seeing other issues. All sea turtles take decades until they become sexually reproductive. Green sea turtles, for instance, can take 25-35 years before they are old enough to reproduce. The high nest numbers are a good indicator of the fantastic conservation work done during past decades. Those nest numbers do not indicate recent hatchling or juvenile survivability.

We know we have many issues with disoriented hatchlings in our more densely populated human areas. We have lighting visible on beaches at night, causing the healthy hatchlings to crawl in the wrong direction and never make it to the ocean. We have hatchlings that did make it to the ocean, being found dead with stomachs and intestines full of tiny pieces of plastic. We also have entanglement in fishing gear (including monofilament) and diseases like Fibropapillomatosis, which likely reduce the reproductive potential.

The reality is that we will only fully see the impacts of these current issues once we see nesting numbers well into the future!

What can you do? It is very easy! Keep the beaches clean, flat, & dark.

Want to know more about Fibropapillomatosis (FP), see this link: https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/marine-life-distress/fibropapillomatosis-and-sea-turtles-frequently-asked-questions

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