sea turtle experts went into Tropical Storm Debby with cautious optimism that Mother Nature would spare the majority of sea turtle egg nests, and it turns out the storm took out its wrath on the nests.
Since Saturday, Debby destroyed the majority of nests from Longboat Key south through Venice, according to preliminary reports from Mote Marine Laboratory scientists who continue to document the impacts of Tropical Storm Debby.
"While some areas have yet to be assessed, Mote researchers have verified 244 nests out of 1,367 that were marked before the storm," Mote stated in a release. "That means as many as 82 percent of local nests lost the yellow stakes placed for identification; some of those nests were destroyed but others may still hatch."
Some eggs that were in immediate danger or washing away have been moved to safer locations by Mote scientists and trained volunteers working under state and federal research permits, according to Mote.
Nests can handle some water rushing over them, Mote advises, and unless the eggs are exposed no action should be taken, and Mote thanked the public for calling to report damaged nests.
It is illegal for the public to handle sea turtle eggs, move nests or otherwise interfere with turtles on the beach, Mote noted.
"Sea turtle experts hope that the large volume of nests laid so far this season will help offset the losses," Mote stated. "Until Debby, nesting numbers were looking great, with more nests laid between April and June 2012 than during all of the 2011 nesting season."
Below are the numbers of sea turtle nests Mote has verified in each part of our patrol area as of Tuesday evening, June 26:
• Longboat Key: 77 verified of 341 nests previously documented (23 percent)
• Lido Key: Eight of 47 nests (17 percent)
• Siesta Key: 55 of 198 nests (28 percent); inventory is not complete.
• Casey Key: 21 of 580 nests (4 percent); inventory is not complete.
• Venice 83 of 201 nests (41 percent)
Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol has collected most of the yellow nest stakes lying on the beach and Patrol volunteers will resume their normal nest-monitoring duties now that the storm has passed.
The Patrol includes Mote scientists, interns and more than 300 volunteers who monitor 35 miles of local nesting beaches each day of the season, May 1-Oct. 31.
If eggs are exposed, the public should call Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at 941-388-4331.