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RSW Living Magazine

2020 Sea Turtle Season Brought Mixed Results Amid Global Pandemic

A baby sea turtle. Photo courtesy of Conservancy of Southwest Florida on Facebook.

Turtle nesting season, May 1 through Oct. 31, recently concluded, and according to data presented by local nonprofit Turtle Time, Inc., while the total number of nests across four area beaches (Bonita Beach, Fort Myers Beach, Big Hickory Island, and Bunche Beach) remained relatively the same from 2018 (297) to 2020 (295), data does show there was a shift in turtles from Bonita to Fort Myers Beach.

Eve Haverfield, president of the organization dedicated to the recovery and conservation of marine turtles, told the News-Press that in some places nesting was up, but hatchings were down, but that doesn't mean there were more turtles.

"The little ones may have been helped by the pandemic because rentals were shut down for a time on some beaches," the article says. "But storms later in the season could have hurt success rates."

The volunteers of Turtle Time 
monitor the coastline from the northern tip of Fort Myers Beach to the Lee-Collier border of Bonita Beach, as well as Bunche Beach. As of Nov. 3, 2020, the number of nests cataloged and marked for the 2020 season shows a slight increase in nests on Bunche Beach (1 nest in 2018, 5 nests in 2020). Meanwhile, there was a slight decrease in nests on Big Hickory Island (25 in 2018, 18 in 2020). There was a drastic rise in nests on Fort Myers Beach (68 in 2018, 132 in 2020) and a steep decline on Bonita Beach (203 in 2018, 140 in 2020).

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Science Department has been monitoring sea turtle nesting and hatchling recruitment on Keewaydin Island continuously since 1982. This program is now one of the longest-running sea turtle monitoring/research projects in the nation. In the 2020 season, the conservancy has reported that 22,422 loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings are assumed to have made their way to the Gulf of Mexico.

For more information on their work, visit their website.