October 10, 2011

Loggerhead Populations Get Increased Protection

Last month the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the listing of nine distinct loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) populations under the Endangered Species Act. Since 1978, the worldwide loggerhead population has been considered as one species and listed as threatened. September’s announcement means that each population will be listed separately and bears a different listing status. Four populations will remain listed as threatened (Northwest Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic Ocean, Southeast Indo-Pacific Ocean, and Southwest Indian Ocean), while five populations (Mediterranean Sea, North Indian Ocean, North Pacific Ocean, and South Pacific Ocean) are now listed as endangered. Southwest Florida’s loggerhead turtles fall into the Northwest Atlantic population and will maintain their threatened.status.

For more information on loggerhead turtles and the change to their status, visit NMFS's Office of Protected Resources.

Source: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/pdfs/fr/fr76-58868.pdf

October 7, 2011

Save Sea Turtles (and Other Wildlife) Every Time You Mail a Letter

Don't let the tiger fool you, the newest semipostal stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service will benefit not only tigers, but marine turtles, elephants, great apes, and rhinoceroses, too. The “Save Vanishing Species” stamp costs 55¢ or $11 for a book. The additional 11¢ per stamp benefits the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Multinational Species Conservation Funds. Do your part to save vanishing species by sending your next letter with a “Save Vanishing Species” stamp!

August 31, 2011

There's a New Predator in Town

Predation is a natural part of life for sea turtles and one of the reasons that female turtles lay so many eggs. Nests on Sanibel and Captiva are monitored daily for signs of fire ants, ghost crabs, raccoons, and the occasional bobcat causing damage.  Luckily, this list is fairly short and the damage done by predators on the Islands is minimal compared to other locales.

This March, our predator list increased by one when a coyote (Canis latrans) was photographed by a visitor at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  Luckily, it took Sanibel’s coyote a bit of time to discover sea turtles as a food source.  So far, it has targeted nests with hatchlings in the process of emerging from their eggs, but not yet out of the nest.  It is probably able to hone in on increase in scents emanating from the nest during this time.  

While it is impossible to protect nests from every predator, there are options available to deter many predators.  In this case, screening nests close to hatching has proved successful against the coyote.   The screens are made of wire mesh approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and anchored by tent stakes.  The holes in the screen are large enough to allow hatchlings to emerge from the nest while the screen is in place, but small enough to prevent predators like raccoons, bobcats, and coyotes from digging into the nest.

August 27, 2011

First Documented Sea Turtle Nest in Delaware

As sea turtle nesting season winds down in Florida, the sea turtle community has been abuzz with excitement with the discovery of the first documented sea turtle nest in Delaware.  The nest was found on August 18 in Cape Henlopen State Park.  Initially thought to be a loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), further examination of photos taken of the nesting female at dawn confirm that it is actually a green turtle (Chelonia mydas). For more on this exciting discovery-Sea Turtle Nests in Delaware

August 3, 2011

Hatches, Hatches Everywhere!

Sea turtle hatching season is well underway on the islands.  Seventy nests have hatched on Sanibel and 36 on Captiva.  Most of these have been loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) nests, but our first green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nest has also hatched!
Green turtle hatchling from a nest on Sanibel.  Photo by A. Bryant

Three days after a nest hatches volunteers with the turtle program excavate the nest and inventory the contents.  So far, our largest nest had a total of 144 eggs and our smallest nest had only 42 eggs.  

Remember, if you come across a sea turtle hatchling on the beach, leave it where you find it and notify SCCF immediately.  We'll give you directions for what to do next to protect the hatching.

June 22, 2011

Hatch Season Begins on the Islands!

Hatchling entering the Gulf of Mexico early in the morning in 2010 (Photo by: A. Bryant).
Last night the first loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) nests laid on Sanibel & Captiva hatched and the hatchlings made their way to the Gulf of Mexico!

June 16, 2011

Happy World Sea Turtle Day!

In honor of World Sea Turtle Day, please consider doing something nice for the planet's sea turtles. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
  • Reduce your plastic use
  • Switch to reusable bags instead of plastic bags
  • Pick up garbage on the beach
  • Dispose of fishing line & hooks properly
  • Turn out or shield lights near the beach
  • Avoid using a flashlight on the beach at night
  • Fill in holes on the beach
  • Support sea turtle conservation organizations
  • Educate others about sea turtles

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) crawl on Sanibel Island (Photo by: A. Bryant)

June 6, 2011

The Greens are Nesting!

Well, one green at least.  Over the weekend we had a green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nest on Sanibel!  This was somewhat unexpected because usually green turtle nests are laid in even years on Sanibel.  This is probably because there are one or two green turtles that return every other year to nest.  This just happens to occur on even years typically.  Now, things will be a little less predictable, but no less exciting!

June 1, 2011

Shrimping to Blame Not the Oil Spill

An article in the Washington Post highlights a problem many initially attributed to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill-- hundreds of sea turtles, mainly Kemp's Ridleys (Lepidochelys kempii), are washing ashore dead along the Gulf coast.  In 2010, 600 sea turtles washed ashore, this year 563 have been found.  After completing necropsies on almost all of the 2010 turtles and some of this year's turtles, there is evidence that they were caught in shrimp nests, where they drowned. 

The shrimp fishery is required to use turtle excluder devices, also known as TEDs, in their nets.  Use of TEDs became mandatory in the 1990s. Emails obtained by Oceana from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggest that in many cases TEDs were not used, and if they were, they were not installed correctly. When installed correctly, they are 97% effective.


May 20, 2011

Happy Endangered Species Day!

All sea turtle species are threatened or endangered.  In honor of sea turtles and Endangered Species Day, choose to do something to benefit these amazing reptiles!  Even small steps can help ensure the survival of sea turtles for generations to come.
  • Shield or turn off beachfront lighting- Lighting can disorient sea turtles.
  • Reduce your plastic use, especially plastic bags- Sea turtles mistake plastic for their natural foods. Consuming plastic kills sea turtles.
  • Dispose of fishing line properly- Sea turtles can become entangled or eat monofilament.
  • Pick up garbage on the beach
  • Remove all beach furniture, tents, etc from the beach at night- Sea turtles can become entangled in beach furniture.
  • Avoid using flashlights on the beach at night- Lights on the beach can cause sea turtles to not come ashore or abandon their nesting attempt.
  • Fill in holes on the beach - Large, deep holes can trap adult and hatchling sea turtles. 

May 10, 2011

Crawling Steadily Ashore

We are a week into sea turtle season and the ladies have been steadily coming ashore. As of today there are eight nests on Sanibel and one nest on Captiva. All nests are loggerhead nests, with the exception of one Kemp's Ridley nest on Sanibel. When the turtles aren't nesting, they are testing out the beach with false crawls, like the very short one on the left. Sanibel has ten false crawls and Captiva has none.

April 25, 2011

We're off to an early start!

While May 1 is the official start of sea turtle nesting season in Southwest Florida, sea turtles often follow their own calender. On Friday, April 22 a rare Kemp's Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) came ashore on Sanibel and gave us our first nest of the season. We didn't quite have the first nest in Lee County, that honor went to Cayo Costa with a Loggerhead nest the night before; we had the most interesting nester. Kemp's Ridleys typically nest during the day, but rarely in Florida. There were only eight nests in the entire state in 2011! Their main nesting ground is Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, with additional nesting at Padre Island, Texas. Even though they don't often nest in Florida, this isn't Sanibel's first nest. The last documented Kemp's Ridley nest was in 1996. While they are uncommon on Florida's beaches, they are often found in our waters, which provide important foraging habitat. The Kemp's Ridley is the smallest and rarest sea turtle in the world. They are approximately 100 pounds and measure 2- 2 1/2 feet in length at maturity. They are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act where they are listed as endangered.

March 30, 2011

NMFS & USFWS Delay Loggerhead Status Determination

The Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) was listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1978. Since that time, there have been dramatic declines in Loggerhead populations worldwide. It is currently the only sea turtle species listed as threatened; all other sea turtle species are endangered in the U.S. In 2009, a review of the Loggerhead's status begin. At that time, a decision was to be announced in early 2011 about the listing of the species.

It looks like we'll have to wait until September, though. Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a six month extension to determine the status of the Loggerhead. (Photo credit: J. Jones)

February 8, 2011

Cold Stunning in Texas

Unusually cold winter weather has resulted in another cold stunning event along the Texas coast. Over 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles have been rescued since the beginning of February. This marks the second year for a major cold-stunning event in the state. Just last year, when cold-stunned sea turtles were also being rescued in Florida, over 400 were rescued in Texas.

More information on the Texas cold-stunning and the rescue efforts can be found here. Photos from the event can be found here and here.

January 5, 2011

Plastic Bags Banned in Italy

Italy has taken a step no other county has attempted- they've banned plastic bags. The ban went into effect January 1, 2011 and includes all non-biodegradable, single-use plastic bags. This is a huge step for a country responsible for using 25% (20-25 million bags per year) of all plastic bags used in the European Union.

Worldwide 500 billion- 1 trillion plastic bags are used annually. Over 100 billion of these are used by Americans. Most are never recycled and end up in landfills or our oceans. Floating plastic bags closely resemble the foods of sea turtles and are mistakenly eaten. This can cause blockages in their digestive system and eventually result in death.

It doesn't take a nationwide ban to reduce the use of plastic bags. Do your part to save sea turtles and bring your own bags when you shop!