Despite banner year for sea turtle nests, Palm Beach County sees decrease in turtle hatchings

Posted at 6:08 PM, Dec 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-30 19:35:22-05

They are just a few of the factors that set Florida apart from the rest of the country - sun, sand, and sea turtles.

Indeed, the iconic sea creatures are a main stay on our beaches.

However, some recent numbers are raising concerns among conservationists.

Despite it being a banner year for sea turtle nests in Palm Beach County, the news is not all positive.

“Mother turtles are going to lay anywhere from 80 to 150 eggs,” says Leanne Welch with Gumbo Limbo Nature Center.

“We would normally expect about 80% of those to become sea turtles to hatch and to swim out to the ocean and this year we only saw about 40% of those.”

Welch says a brutal summer led to a brutal end for many baby turtles.

“When we have a very hot, very dry summer, those turtles actually bake in their eggs.”

Just about 45 minutes north at Loggerhead Marine Life Center, they're also seeing a growing trend.

“The last two seasons there's been kind of a decrease in our hatching success.” says Adrienne McCracken, field operations manager at Loggerhead.

A while it's no time to panic, experts say they are looking ahead, even though they know there's only so much they can do.

“There's a lot of factors that we can control on the beach, and we do,” Welch says. “What we can't control is the weather.”

“It may mean that we can look at different ways to monitor the sand temperatures...and maybe see what's going on in the sand,” McCracken says.

Experts say despite the hatchling numbers, good conservation efforts over the last 20-30 years have led to a very, very good year for the number of turtle nests in our area, reversing 5 years of low numbers.

Experts credit several laws that have been passed to regulate beach lighting and the types of hooks used in the fishing industry.