Sea Turtles Are Making a Big Comeback in the Southeast

Conservationists are celebrating news that endangered sea turtles are nesting in record numbers in the southeast from North Carolina to Florida, offering a promising sign that efforts to help protect them are paying off.

Last week, researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) studying green sea turtles at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge declared that for the second time in the past three years they’re setting records after they counted 12,026 nests.

“This is really a comeback story,” said Kate Mansfield, a UCF assistant professor of biology and lead of the Marine Turtle Research Group, which monitors the turtles during their nesting season that lasts from May 1 to October 1.

The refuge, which was established in 1991, has become a vital haven for sea turtles. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it’s the most significant area for green turtle nesting in North America, but they’re not the only ones benefiting.

The refuge is also used by leatherback turtles, who are now one of the world’s rarest sea turtles, and it is believed to be the most significant area for loggerhead sea turtle nesting in the Western Hemisphere.

“Back in the 1980s the beaches UCF monitored hosted less than 50 green turtle nests a year,” said Mansfield. “It is a really remarkable recovery and reflects a ‘perfect storm’ of conservation successes―from the establishment of the Archie Carr, to implementing the Endangered Species Act, among many other conservation initiatives. It will be very exciting to see what happens over the next 20 plus years.”

The good news from Florida was followed by more this weekend from North and South Carolina, in addition to Georgia where loggerhead sea turtles nest from May through August. Scientists and volunteers counted 2,292 nests, which sets a new record for the fifth season in six years.

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

Researchers are crediting a number of actions taken on our part to help keep sea turtles safe — from protecting their habitats and implementing lighting ordinances to help prevent them from getting disoriented to covering nests to protect them from predators, along with requiring shrimp boats to use fishing nets equipped with special trapdoors that allow them to escape.

Still because they’re long-lived and so very slow to reproduce, we still have to wait and see if the upward trend continues.

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

Photo credit: Thinkstock

207 comments

Rae Nelson
Rae Nelson1 years ago

Great great news! Thank you!

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

good news

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Yola S.
.2 years ago

Good news.

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Sarah Crockett
Sarah Crockett2 years ago

Petition signed. Terrific news!

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Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.2 years ago

Let's say it under our breaths and hope

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Isa JOSSERAND HURE
Isa J2 years ago

Ok, good news

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Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell2 years ago

Thank you

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Carol P.
Carol P2 years ago

Good to hear that efforts appear to be paying off.

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federico bortoletto
federico b2 years ago

Ottima notizia!!!

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