It Was A Record Year For Loggerhead Turtle Hatchlings In This Florida Coastal Area — Here’s Where

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On both the beaches of Naval Station Mayport and Florida as a whole, loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings are hitting record numbers.Photo credit: SLSK Photography / Shutterstock.com

Naval Station Mayport is swimming in sea turtle hatchlings! The numbers were record-setting this season. There were 54 sea turtle nests with more than 3,000 sea turtle hatchlings.

Heather Hahn, natural resources manager, noted that the nest numbers have been improving every year. In 2019, there were just 38 nests; in 2020 and 2021 there were 24 and 18, respectively. This year, there were 54 nests — a big jump. Research continues to see if this is a trend or a “one-off.”

But Mayport isn’t the only location for this jump in population. The entire state of Florida is showing increases in sea turtle populations. Hahn says loggerhead nesting is a big deal for Florida, and the increase on their beach could mean the population overall is growing.

Mayport Changes Make It Easier For Sea Turtles

Hahn, who is responsible for reviewing wildlife issues and the sea turtle permitting program, says the loggerhead sea turtles like to nest on beaches that are dark, quiet, and smooth — an environment she says Mayport tries to foster. In 2017, the naval station did a major light retrofit, switching to wildlife- and sea turtle-friendly lights. She credits these changes with spurring the local sea turtle population growth.

While local changes are important, there could be other reasons for the boost in successful nestings. These factors could include changes in water temperatures and sea turtles expanding their territories. The changes could impact lots of coastal areas.

Hatchlings Face Many Dangers; Don’t Add To Them!

If you see a sea turtle on the beach, it’s important to stay out of its way. It’s especially important not to touch it. The slightest distractions can frighten or disorient them, causing a female to return to the ocean before finishing her nest, or misdirecting a hatchling away from the water. Light can also cause a major disruption in the natural behavior of the turtles. Don’t use any flashlights, flash photography, or video equipment.

You Can Safely View Sea Turtles

There are several ways to view sea turtles while keeping them safe. You can attend one of the permitted public turtle walks, a public hatchling release, or a nest hatch success evaluation. You can also visit a facility that houses or rehabilitates sea turtles. Many facilities conduct educational tours involving captive turtles. Admission fees may be charged and you can find a facility here.

These activities are conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s (FWC’s) Marine Turtle Permit Holders (MTPH). First, you’ll see an interpretive program on marine turtle biology and conservation issues at an off-beach location. For turtle walks and hatchling releases, you’ll go to the beach to observe a nesting loggerhead turtle depositing eggs or the release of hatchlings (both activities occur at night).

Want to learn more about sea turtles? Check out these articles:

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