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2024 First Turtle Sighting, Our Town Sarasota News Events

2024 First Turtle Sighting

Sarasota news events:

Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program (STCRP) documented the first local sea turtle nest of the 2024 season on Sunday, April 28, on Venice Beach! This marks the beginning of a crucial period for sea turtle conservation. 

At the heart of STCRP’s conservation efforts are the dedicated individuals of the Sea Turtle Patrol. Comprising STCRP staff, interns, and over 300 volunteers, they began monitoring the Sarasota area beaches on April 15th. Their commitment and passion are the driving force behind Mote’s nesting research success.

From April 15 to October 31, the Sea Turtle Patrol conducts daily monitoring throughout the nesting season. Each day, they diligently survey a staggering 35 miles of beaches, from Longboat Key to Venice.

“Even though sea turtle nesting season isn’t officially supposed to start until May 1, we like to be prepared and patrol early to make sure we catch the first signs of nesting on our beaches,” said Melissa Macksey, Senior Biologist and Conservation Manager of STCRP. “Our enthusiastic volunteers and interns make patrolling 35 miles of beaches possible. We could not do it without them. They are the reason we were able to catch this early nest.” 

The first nest was laid by a loggerhead sea turtle, a threatened species protected under federal law. Loggerheads are the most common species on southwest Florida nesting beaches, followed by endangered green sea turtles. In recent years, Sarasota County has also hosted a handful of endangered Kemp’s ridleys, among the smallest and rarest sea turtles.

During nesting season, the STCRP documents nesting activities, which allows them to analyze trends, phenological shifts (timing of nesting events in relation to the seasons), nesting density (the number of nests in a given area), emergence success (the number of eggs in a nest that produces live hatchlings that surface), environmental impacts, effects of nest site selection, and more. The STCRP will continue its long-term studies of local sea turtles. Like the last four decades, they will mark each nest with yellow stakes and flagging tape while observing and collecting data. 

Mote’s research shows that nest numbers have increased on local beaches in recent years. In 2023, Mote reported 4,284 nests from Longboat Key to Venice. 

The public can view Mote’s weekly counts of sea turtle nests within the patrol area at www.mote.org/2024nesting

“Now that we have identified the first nest of the season, we implore beachgoers to be conscious of the sea turtles while enjoying Florida’s unparalleled beaches,” said Macksey. “There are many simple ways to help protect sea turtles and their nests. Hatchlings will have a better chance at surviving if everyone does their part.”