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Sea Turtle Monitoring at ANERR

Although they are not as widely utilized as the beaches of southeast Florida, the beaches of northwest Florida provide excellent habitat for nesting sea turtles. The barrier island beaches in the Apalachicola area support some of the densest concentrations of nesting loggerhead sea turtles in northwest Florida. The loggerhead is the most common turtle to nest in this area. There have been occasional reports of green sea turtles nesting on northwest Florida beaches and even rarer occurrences of leatherback nests.

The beaches of Franklin County have been monitored for sea turtle nesting activity since 1979, when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) implemented a statewide monitoring program. Permit holders monitor a specific segment of beach for sea turtle nesting activity and report the data to FWRI via annual summary forms. The following are permit holders in Franklin County: St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge monitors nine miles of St. Vincent Island, St. George Island State Park monitors nine miles on the eastern end of St. George Island, Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR) monitors nine miles on Little St. George Island and seven miles of mainland between Eastpoint and Carrabelle, and a part-time staff member, hired by ANERR to coordinate and organize volunteers, monitors 11 miles of St. George Island outside of the state park.

Protecting our Beaches
Sea turtles spend most of their lives at sea, emerging only to lay their eggs in a nest they excavate in the sand. During the late spring and summer months, female sea turtles migrate from the open gulf to nest on the relatively undeveloped beaches of the Florida Panhandle.

The data for both areas shows a significant increase in the total number of crawls from 1990-1999. The downward trend seen after 1999 may be a result of less turtles nesting in the area. The downward trend seen with hatch success began as a result of beach conditions and has continued due to tropical storms, high tides and erosion. Increased developmental pressures and light pollution have proved to be detrimental to sea turtle populations and conservation efforts are needed more today than ever before. The liberal use of lectures, newspaper articles, radio spots, flyers, brochures, and on-site interpretive efforts, provide many of the contacts that the Reserve depends on for reporting crawls, nests, strandings, and hatchling disorientations. Informing the public on these issues is a critical resource tool in the monitoring of endangered and threatened species and is essential to their recovery.

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Last Modified:
February 27, 2019 - 8:48am

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