Good sea turtle news from Florida, USA

This video from Australia is called Loggerhead turtles hatch at Shark Bay.

From Florida Today in the USA:

Loggerhead turtle nests rebound in Brevard

Nesting increases at wildlife refuge

BY JIM WAYMER • FLORIDA TODAY • September 21, 2010

These “loggers” are on a roll.

Loggerhead sea turtles dug the most nests since 2002 this year at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, a key beach that typically echoes how turtle nesting fares statewide.

While the endangered green sea turtle has rebounded in recent years — they’re on pace for another record year at Carr — loggers have struggled to emerge from a long-term slump.

This year, they defied the odds, dodging the BP blowout, a frigid winter and wash back from storms, to post 12,300 nests at the refuge. That’s up almost 3,000, or 40 percent, from last year. So biologists are hopeful the numbers hint at healthier future growth curves for the threatened species.

“It’s a little hard to say exactly what it means, but there is certainly some room for cautious optimism now,” said Llew Ehrhart, a University of Central Florida professor emeritus of biology, who studies sea turtles.

He monitors turtle nesting at the Carr refuge, which has what beach biologists call one of the most important beaches for nesting sea turtles in the world. It’s also the span of shore that most closely reflects statewide turtle nesting trends.

Logger nesting at the refuge peaked in 1998 at a record 17,729 nests, then dropped six years in a row to about 7,600 nests in 2004.

“Their numbers just fell off like crazy,” Ehrhart said.

Four hurricanes in 2004, and possibly some cold water, caused huge drops in loggerhead sea turtle nesting statewide and in Brevard, where some beaches saw nine of every 10 nests destroyed.

The dip and ongoing threats from commercial fishing prompted the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this year to propose switching some of the logger’s population segments from “threatened” to “endangered.”

Some worry that would result in the federal government prohibiting popular nighttime turtle walks in which people watch loggers nest.

This year’s nesting success may be in part because tropical cyclones formed so far east in the Atlantic, steered out to sea and clear of nesting beaches.

“The green turtles, the news is even better,” Ehrhart said, referring to the 3,950 nests so far at Archie Carr. He expects to top the record 3,963 nests in 2007. That’s up from fewer than 50 nests in 1982.

… Earlier this month, one of the largest baby sea turtle relocations in the nation’s history came to a close as biologists let go the last of about 15,000 turtles hatched at Kennedy Space Center, refugees of the BP blowout.

Many of the relocated turtles were loggerheads that began nesting on beaches from Orange Beach, Ala., to Panama City Beach.

The Marine Turtles: Beautiful, Exotic, and Endangered: here.

One in three loggerhead turtles in the Adriatic Sea has plastic in its intestine, according to researchers studying the impact of debris on marine life: here.

5 thoughts on “Good sea turtle news from Florida, USA


    After record season, Georgia turtle hatchlings head out

    On Wassaw, it’s all over but the counting

    Posted: September 27, 2010 – 12:19am

    A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling treks straight to the ocean after being dug from its nest on Wassaw Island. (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News)

    Caretta Research Project Director Kris Williams, left, and Monica Harris of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, document the number of eggs laid and hatched from loggerhead sea turtle nests on Wassaw Island. (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News) John Carrington

    At the end of the incubation period Caretta Research Project Director Kris Williams excavates the sea turtle nests on Wassaw Island to document the success rate of the nests. (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News) John Carrington

    A loggerhead turtle hatchling makes the trek into the surf after being discovered during a routine nest excavation still buried in its nest. (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News) John Carrington

    A large screen protects a loggerhead sea turtle nest from raccoons on Wassaw Island. The large depression under the screen is evidence the eggs have hatched. (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News) John Carrington

    A loggerhead turtle hatchling makes the trek into the surf for its inaugural swim. (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News) John Carrington

    While excavating a nest on Wassaw Island, Caretta Research Project Director Kris Williams found this live hatchling. Below it, its many siblings remained unhatched, so Williams covered the remaining eggs with sand to incubate a little longer. (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News) John Carrington

    A loggerhead turtle hatchling finally reaches the water after making the trek across the beach on Wassaw Island. (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News) John Carrington

    Caretta Research Project Director Kris Williams holds a loggerhead turtle hatchling she found while excavating a nest on Wassaw Island. It was among the first to have hatched when Williams checked the nest. At the end of the incubation period, Williams excavates the turtle nests to document how many eggs hatched and how many hatchlings survived. (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News) John Carrington

    At the end of the incubation period Caretta Research Project Director Kris Williams excavates the loggerhead sea turtle nests on Wassaw Island to document the nests’ success. (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News) John Carrington
    At the end of the incubation period Caretta Research Project Director Kris Williams excavates the loggerhead sea turtle nests on Wassaw Island to document the nests’ success. (John Carrington/Savannah Morning News)

    By Mary Landers

    REACHING A GLOVED HAND INTO AN OVERRIPE SEA TURTLE NEST, Kris Williams made a grim discovery earlier this month. Where she hoped to find empty shells, the hallmark of new life, she instead found 64 dead baby turtles.

    “These are tiny hatchlings, too,” she said, piling up the tiny carcasses on the sand.

    A loggerhead had dug this nest in late July, lumbering onto the Wassaw Island beach in the middle of the night. That same day, Williams, who runs the Caretta Research Project, carefully relocated 118 eggs higher on the beach at the base of the dune, where they were safe from high tides that could drown them. Then she and her volunteers screened the nest to keep raccoons out.

    But something went wrong anyway.

    “It wasn’t inundated. There were no obstacles,” she said, looking at the clear pathway to the surf. “It was an easy exit.”

    Raccoons will sometimes raid a nest as the hatchlings emerge, biting off the turtle heads and tossing the bodies aside. But that wasn’t the case here, either. These babies were still buried and still intact.

    It may have just gotten too hot in the nest with all the metabolic activity using the oxygen and overheating the hatchlings, Williams speculated. Along with the dead hatchlings, another 16 eggs were unhatched.

    But Williams, a freckle-faced, outdoorsy woman who’s worked on Wassaw since 1996, looked on the bright side.

    “About half of them made it out,” she said.

    Coastal accounting

    Sea turtles have evolved with a reproductive strategy that accounts for the slim survival of eggs and hatchlings. That is, they have lots of babies. A typical nest holds 100 to 150 leathery eggs, each the size of a pingpong ball. A mama turtle lays up to six nests every two to three years.

    And it was, after all, a record season on this Chatham County island as well as the whole Georgia coast. Wassaw, a national wildlife refuge run by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, racked up 159 loggerhead nests. Georgia as a whole saw 1,742.

    After a busy summer overseeing volunteers who pay $750 to $900 to spend a week at a time living on Wassaw and monitoring turtle activity each night, Williams is winding down. Only 16 nests remained by Sept. 16. Her job now is mainly a kind of biological accounting: Recording what happened in those nests. Nests can hatch in anywhere from 46 to 66 days, with the longer incubations usually coming later in the season as the weather cools.

    The nest excavation is a process Williams has done thousands of times. Using both hands, she deftly sorts each hatched nest into piles: empty shells, unhatched eggs and dead hatchlings.

    This post-hatch number-crunching tells Williams how many turtles hatched and how many of those hatchlings made it out of the nest. Because the Caretta Research Project has been operating since 1973, tagging and recording every turtle that comes up on the beach to nest, Williams can almost always match those numbers to a particular turtle and track its reproductive success over the long term.

    ‘Born Free’ moment

    Slightly farther south on Wassaw’s deserted beach Thursday, the second nest of the day revealed a happy surprise. Although it was more than 50 days old, most of its eggs were still developing.

    Williams put the sand and protective screen back over those eggs, but not before discovering one little turtle wriggling its flippers and blinking at its first ray of sunshine.

    “Thank goodness,” said Williams, admiring the baby that fit on her palm.

    After searching for more live hatchlings in other nests and finding none, Williams and Monica Harris, visitor services manager for the Savannah Coastal Refuges complex, took the lone hatchling to the water’s edge.

    It turned a complete circle in the hard sand, then got its bearings.

    Digging in its miniature flippers, it set out toward the surf, pausing occasionally to stick its head up like a periscope and scout the horizon.

    “He’s like, ‘I hear the water, I’m ready to go,'” Harris said.

    Once in the water, the hatchling swam, but twice the waves tumbled it upside down.

    Finally, it got deep enough, disappeared under the breakers and was gone.

    Add one to the success rate for nest number 146.


  2. Critics say Obama lagging on endangered species

    FILE – A female Oregon spotted frog from the Owyhee Mountains of Southwestern Idaho, rests in the hand of a researcher in this undated file photo taken in Idaho. Environmental groups are criticizing the Obama administration for what they say is a continuing backlog of plants and animals in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act. Many of the species listed as candidates for protection have been waiting for such a designation for decades, including the Oregon spotted frog, found in three West Coast states. (AP Photo/Boise State University, Janice Engle, File)

    By Matthew Daly
    Associated Press / November 26, 2010

    WASHINGTON—Environmental groups are criticizing the Obama administration for what they say is a continuing backlog of plants and animals in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act.

    The Fish and Wildlife Service says 251 species are candidates for endangered species protection, four more than a similar review last year found.

    Environmental groups say that shows the Obama administration has done little to improve on what they consider a dismal record on endangered species under President George W. Bush.

    Nearly two years after taking office, Obama has provided Endangered Species Act protection to 51 plants and animals, an average of 25 a year. By comparison, the Clinton administration protected an average of 65 species per year, and the Bush administration listed about eight species a year.

    “Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration is failing to provide prompt protection to wildlife desperately in need of protection,” including the plains bison, sage grouse and hundreds of other species, said Noah Greenwald, endangered species program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, an Arizona-based group that has filed lawsuits seeking greater protection for those and other species.

    Greenwald said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has failed to correct a longtime “culture of delay and foot-dragging” at the Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the endangered species program. The agency has been without a permanent director since February, when former director Sam Hamilton died. All but one of the service’s eight regional directors are holdovers from the Bush administration.

    Tom Strickland, assistant Interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, acknowledged the growing backlog, but compared it to a list of schools that need repair.

    “We know what we need to do. We don’t have the resources to do it all at once,” he said.

    Many of the species listed as candidates for protection have been waiting for such a designation for decades, including the Oregon spotted frog, found in three West Coast states, and the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, found in nine Midwest and Great Lakes states. The frog has been a candidate for the endangered species list since 1991, the snake since 1982.

    Bob Irvin, senior vice president for conservation at Defenders of Wildlife, another environmental group, compared species on the waiting list to patients in a crowded emergency room.

    “Species on the candidate list continue to deteriorate while waiting for care,” Irvin said. “The 251 species now under consideration for federal protection are glaring reminders that we can and should do more to safeguard our valuable natural resources.”

    Candidates for the endangered species list get no formal protection. Officials say the designation raises awareness among private landowners and federal land managers that the species need help.

    Delays can have consequences. At least 24 species have gone extinct after being designated as a candidate for protection, including the Louisiana prairie vole, Tacoma pocket gopher, San Gabriel Mountains blue butterfly, Sangre de Cristo peaclam from New Mexico and numerous Hawaiian invertebrates.

    The federal government spent nearly $1.4 billion last year on programs and land acquisition related to endangered species, up from just under $1 billion the previous year. A total of 793 plants and 578 animals are listed as threatened or endangered in the United States, including 83 mammals and 139 species of fish.

    Strickland, who oversees the endangered species program, said it was unfair to evaluate the program based on how many species are listed each year. Some species are in greater danger than others, he said.

    “We make judgments based on limited resources, but also the peril with which the species is faced,” Strickland said, noting that several species have jumped onto the protected list when they faced an imminent threat.

    Strickland, who also serves as Salazar’s chief of staff, said the Obama administration has taken steps to restore credibility to the endangered species program, which he said had been damaged under the previous administration.

    First, Salazar directed that listing decisions be based on science rather than politics, in response to a scandal involving Julie MacDonald, a former Bush official who was found to have exerted improper political interference on range of endangered species decisions.

    Second, the department reinstated a rule — dropped by the Bush administration — requiring government agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service on actions that could affect endangered species.

    Damien Schiff, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation, a California-based property rights group that calls the Endangered Species Act a regulatory nightmare, said criticism of Obama by conservation groups is overblown.

    “Goes to show that one can never satisfy the environmentalists,” he said.
    © Copyright 2010 Associated Press.


  3. Loggerhead turtles have a banner year on Topsail

    By Ken Little

    Published: Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 6:04 p.m.
    Last Modified: Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 6:04 p.m.

    Sea turtle conservation efforts launched decades ago may be paying dividends now in the form of more nests and hatchlings.

    Nest count

    Statistics for 2010 turtle nesting season, with false crawls in parentheses.

    Bald Head Island: 75 nests (100 false crawls)
    Carolina Beach: 1 (3)
    Caswell Beach: 49 (71)
    Fort Fisher State Recreation Area: 28 (22)
    Holden Beach: 29 (31)
    Kure Beach: 11 (9)
    Masonboro Island: 26 (11)
    Oak Island: 56 (46)
    Ocean Isle: 18 (12)
    Sunset Beach/Bird Island: 6 (4)
    Topsail Island: 104 (88)
    Wrightsville Beach: 1 (3)


    Longtime volunteer Jean Beasley thinks that may be the case, based on 2010 nesting season results on Topsail Island in Pender County, where 104 loggerhead nests were successfully hatched.

    It’s the first time in many years more than 100 nests have been verified, said Beasley, executive director of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.

    A total of 59 nests were identified on the island in 2009.

    “Long-term conservation efforts may be paying off,” Beasley said. “It was a fantastic year. It is cause for celebration, but you have to remember that one year does not make a trend.”

    Holden Beach in Brunswick County recorded 29 sea turtle nests, including one leatherback nest.

    “It’s pretty much a very rare event for North Carolina. That was the high point of the year for us,” said Skip Hager, coordinator of the Holden Beach Turtle Watch Program.

    Concern early in the nesting season about a high percentage of “false crawls” proved unfounded, Hager said. False crawls occur when adult females in reproductive condition come ashore but return to the sea without laying eggs. There were 31 false crawls reported this year in Holden Beach.

    “We went a couple weeks with pretty much all false crawls, but it averages out,” Hager said. “In general, it was pretty much a good year for us.”

    In the 1970s and 1980s, volunteers began to ensure the safety of sea turtle nests then guide hatchlings to the sea, safe from predators. Hager said about 60 volunteers participated this year in Holden Beach. On Topsail Island, Beasley said up to 200 volunteers pitched in, between the sea turtle hospital and other beach activities.

    The dedication of volunteers year after year may have helped turn the tide among loggerhead sea turtle populations along North Carolina’s coast. It takes a loggerhead 30 to 35 years to reach adulthood and begin reproducing, Beasley said.

    “Loggerheads are the North Carolina turtle,” she said. “Conservation measures have been going on for about 30 years, so we like to think that these increased numbers of hatchlings that make it to the water is because of the very strong network of sea turtle conservationists.”

    At least 9,421 sea turtle hatchlings emerged from eggs on Topsail Island in 2010, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

    “We take that job very seriously, of protecting those nests and making sure those hatchlings get down to the ocean,” she said. “That activity is now decades old, and some of these turtles who have made it to the water because of our conservation efforts (are returning). We like to hope that’s the case right now.”

    She said each mother turtle will lay three to five nests per season and then sometimes not lay any eggs for one to three years, so if there are 104 nests in Topsail Beach, that doesn’t necessarily mean there were 104 different turtles laying the eggs.

    “It could be as few as 20, so you’re not talking about large numbers of individuals,” Beasley said.

    Beasley acknowledges “the jury is still out.”

    “What we want to see is a solid repetition of good nesting numbers.”

    Twenty or 30 years ago, at least 100 sea turtle nests on Topsail Island was the norm, Beasley said. The numbers have steadily declined since then.

    “If we look at the last 50 to 100 years, it would look like we’re falling off a precipice,” she said. “I think we’ve made some progress.”

    Region desk: 343-2389

    On @StarNewsOnline


  4. Pingback: Good Florida loggerhead turtle news | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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