2023 sea turtle nesting season breaks records

Hatchling heading to the Atlantic Ocean
Hatchling heading to the Atlantic Ocean

The St. Johns County Environmental Division Habitat Conservation Section are recording historic nesting numbers that took place during this year’s beach nourishment projects.

Green Sea Turtles nests logged in with triple-digits at 133 nests; loggerhead turtle nests at 1,057; and leatherback sea turtles at 15. St. Johns County estimates that 79,811 hatchlings forged their way into 42-miles of the county’s Atlantic Ocean coastline.

Due to beach erosion caused by Hurricane Ian and Tropical Storm Nicole, the county embarked on renourishment projects which included the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Augustine Shore Protection Project; the South Ponte Vedra and Vilano Army Corps Coastal Storm Risk Management Project; the South Ponte Vedra Dune Project; and the FEMA Dune Enhancement Project which included Butler Beach.

Stephen Hammond, the County’s Coastal Environment Manager said that substantial amounts of sand were used to rebuild and flatten the turtle’s nesting grounds during the renewal process to ensure that the life cycles of Florida’s native species were not disrupted.

“Many factors threaten sea life, but infrastructure improvement need not be one of them,” he said.

According to Ashley Raybould, the county's Environmental Supervisor of the Beach Services’ Habitat Conservation Program, conservation efforts implemented 30 years ago are yielding positive results. These efforts include keeping the beach clear of humans and bright lighting under the dark of night.

Raybould underscored the importance of maintaining conservation efforts to protect the habitat of sea turtles who reach maturity at age 20.

According to a recent press release, Beach Services’ close collaboration with the county's Beach Construction and Beach Renourishment helped to ensure the safety of sea turtles and other threatened beach species during coastal projects like the FEMA Dune Enhancement Project.

Sea turtle nesting season occurs from May 1 to Oct. 31. Beach goers can become Sea Turtle stewards by keeping the beaches dark and free of trash and by volunteering for the Beach Stewards Program. Click here to find out more information on becoming a St. Augustine Beach Steward.

This article originally appeared on St. Augustine Record: 2023 sea turtle nesting season breaks records