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Sea turtle hatching season peaking; nesting nears end

KARL WERNER Green sea turtle nest hatchling.
SCCF Nesting and false crawls as of Aug. 19, compared to last year.

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Sea Turtle Team has only discovered six new nests since Aug. 5, but 42 new hatches have been documented since, officials reported on Aug. 19.

A total of 415 nests on Sanibel and Captiva have hatched so far, with 23,364 hatchlings leaving the beaches and heading into the Gulf of Mexico. Volunteers and staff have been busy doing inventories of the nests to determine hatch and emergence success.

One of the more memorable recent inventories was a green sea turtle nest that produced 107 hatchlings. The nest was laid by Holly, a green that SCCF first encountered in 2019, and who returned again to nest this year. SCCF suspects she laid all four of the green nests on the east end of Sanibel this year.

Unfortunately, the increase in hatches is also corresponding with a spike in hatchling disorientations, with 47 nests disorienting as of Aug. 19. The city of Sanibel and Lee County have dedicated staff to enforce lighting codes and keep beachfront properties dark. Of the disorientations, 33 were attributed to skyglow from Cape Coral and Fort Myers. Skyglow has quickly become one of the biggest threats to sea turtles in Florida. Fortunately, light pollution caused by skyglow is a manageable issue. There is an opportunity to adopt more rigorous strategies of light management and have a positive impact on humans and wildlife in Florida.