Hurricane Hermine wiped out 600+ sea turtle nests in Sarasota area

Scientists at Mote Marine Lab say thousands of baby sea turtles were washed away or killed when Hurricane Hermine struck the area this month. Mote Marine photo
Scientists at Mote Marine Lab say thousands of baby sea turtles were washed away or killed when Hurricane Hermine struck the area this month. Mote Marine photo

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hurricane Hermine may be long gone, but the storm is having an impact on the area’s sea turtle population.

Scientists at Mote Marine Lab say thousands of baby sea turtles were washed away or killed when Hurricane Hermine struck the area this month.

Over the past few weeks, Mote researchers have been scouring and digging at beaches throughout Sarasota County. They’ve determined that 668 nests are total washouts that will not produce any hatchlings.

Each nest carries nearly 100 eggs.

“We can’t really do much when a hurricane comes in,” said Mote Marine Senior Biologist Kristen Mazzarella.

Sarasota County beaches serve as an important nesting habitat for both the threatened loggerhead sea turtle and the endangered green sea turtle.

“The survival rate is usually about one in a thousand,” explained Mazzarella.

Researchers keep a close eye on the nest numbers during the nesting season which runs from May 1 to Oct 31.

‘Even during the storm, there were nests being laid, there were nests hatching. So, every day we could get out there we got out there,’ said Mazzarella.

What they found was troubling. Eggs floating in the water or lying on the sand, or newly hatched baby sea turtles that drowned. Many nests simply vanished.

“It’s always a bummer. We had a huge year on our hands and this of course takes a few of our nesting numbers down,” said Mazzarella.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Jay, a Lido beach resident.

“The turtles are the highlight of the entire summer and to see so many of them [dead,] it’s just such a waste,” he added.

The researchers are disappointed in the news, but it’s just part of the natural cycle of life. Thankfully, a few thousand nests had already hatched prior to the storm, and they’re optimistic that a few hundred more can hatch before the end of the season.

So, researchers are encouraging beachgoers to be on the lookout over the next month. The water may have moved some of these eggs to different locations so in the coming weeks, turtles could be hatching in unmarked areas. They also highly encourage people to avoid using lights on the beach at night and to move any furniture away from the sand.

Jay is doing his part. He’s keeping an eye on the beach daily to see if any nests hatch. He hopes some turtles survived so other beachgoers can witness this once in a lifetime experience.

“It’s one of those things that should be on everybody’s bucket list,” he said.

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