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Researchers make shocking discovery while studying turtle nests on Florida coast: 'Decades of ... efforts are now paying off'

"We are so excited to break this all-time nesting record."

Keeping track of sea turtle nests on Florida coast

Photo Credit: iStock

Anyone who's been fortunate enough to see a sea turtle in person knows what majestic creatures they are and will be happy to hear some good news out of Florida. According to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, researchers have found a record number of sea turtle nests in northern Palm Beach County, reported The Palm Beach Post.

As of July 30, 21,872 nests had been recorded. That's great news, considering the nesting season runs through the end of October. Dr. Justin Perrault, LMC vice president of research, said in a broadcast posted by WPBF 25 News that the researchers expected at least a few thousand more nests to be laid. That eclipses last year's total of 18,132 nests.

The state of Florida started keeping track of sea turtle nests in 1979, but it was steps taken in the '90s and early 2000s that Perrault credits with the consistent increase. In the '90s, Florida passed fishing regulations to protect the sea turtles, and many cities adopted laws aimed at reducing light pollution on beaches at night because sea turtles refuse to nest on beaches that are too well lit. 

"That's actually the reason we're seeing these kinds of increases now," Perrault told WPBF 25 News. "So decades of conservation efforts are now paying off in the 2020s. It's crazy."

Unfortunately, Florida is also dealing with an excessively hot summer, and extreme heat can adversely affect nesting.

"If the sand gets too hot and too dry, the nesting females can't build a good egg chamber, so they'll come up on the beach and leave," Perrault said. "And then additionally, if the nests get too hot, that can become lethal for the sea turtles."

The LMC is monitoring the nests to watch for issues caused by the heat.

Sea turtles are incredibly important to the environment and the local economy. They graze on seagrass, which stores carbon and keeps it from reentering and heating the atmosphere. Sea turtles help the economy by providing jobs through turtle watching or diving tours.

Perrault hopes to see more nesting records broken.

"We are so excited to break this all-time nesting record and can't wait to see if each sea turtle species breaks its individual record," Perrault said.

And Perrault had a few words of advice in his TV interview for beachgoers who happen upon a turtle nest: "Leave everything alone."

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