Good sea turtle nesting season ends
"The last nest is off the beach," said Jo Ann Meilner, ending the 2003 sea turtle nesting season. Now comes the grand finale, the awards banquet with its Sadie award.
Meilner, longtime Turtle Watch activist, said it has been a good season from several standpoints.
Strictly from the hatching view, it has been a marked improvement over last year, when only 93 nests favored Anna Maria Island beaches. This year the beaches hosted 164 nests with 16,878 eggs.
That resulted in 9,164 hatchlings, nearly all loggerheads, making it alive into the Gulf of Mexico, Meilner said, a 65 percent hatch rate, which is considered good. The disparity between eggs and surviving hatchlings is accounted for by storms that flooded many nests, predators that took quite a few hatchlings, hatchlings that strayed from the path to the Gulf and died on pavement and in brush, and just plain bad eggs that didn't hatch.
There were fears all season that lights ashore would lead many newborns fatally astray. Turtles instinctively head for lights upon digging up out of the nest to the surface. For millions of years the light was the sparkle of the sea's surface, but now manmade lights compete.
The fears proved mostly groundless, said Meilner. "We are overjoyed at how people responded to the problem," she said, "by turning off or shielding lights visible from the beach. It's been a wonderful improvement this year."
Florida Power & Light heaved a sigh of relief, too. It takes care of street lights on the Island, and had turned off many of them to spare the sea turtles. Now FPL is turning the street lights back on.
Volunteers and invited guests will be honored at the annual Turtle Watch banquet starting at 5 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron at the northeast tip of City Island. The major award at the affair will be the Sadie Award to the person or entity whom judges feel has contributed most to turtle preservation here.