Sea turtle population hits new record number

The number of sea turtle nests in Georgia, Florida have reached a record numbers counted along the beaches of Cumberland Island.

“It’s a lot of physical effort,” said Doug Hoffman, a biologist for the National Park Service on federally managed Cumberland Island off the Georgia coast. “You’re talking about being in the sun, hauling equipment and digging holes, pounding stakes.”

Hoffman and his interns were the ones who counted the nests. Experts are attributing part of the increase to a drop last year creating a strong rebound on the beaches from the Carolinas to Florida, according to the Chicago Tribune.

From May through August, the teams counted 2,292 loggerhead nests, which puts them at being the fifth season in six years for Georgia surpassing the year before. Experts are saying that the new high numbers reinforce their belief that the loggerhead sea turtles are making a comeback since 1978 thanks to the protection as a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

“Every big year we get, the more confident we are in that conclusion that we’re in a recovery period,” said Mark Dodd, the biologist who heads the sea turtle recovery program for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “So we feel really good about it.”

Over 12,000 endangered green sea turtles have also made nests along the beach at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. The head of the Marine Turtle Research Groups at the University of Central Florida, Kate Mansfield, says it is a new record for the refuge.

Mansfield says that the turtles have to live more than 25 years before they begin to reproduce which means that it will be decade before researchers will know for sure if current nesting trends are positive signs of long-lasting recovery.

“It’s promising and exciting, but the long term perspective is needed and helps put what we see now in a broader perspective,” she said. “For the past five years we’ve had good years, but we have to look at this over 25-plus years.”

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