As renourishment project winds down, impact on turtles appears minimal

June 28, 2019
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY SUE ERWIN
The beach renourishment project is winding down at the south end of the island, and all traces should be gone by the end of the week.
According to Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association patrol members, it has been minimal in terms of the impact to the turtles.
“Overall on the island, turtle nesting and false crawls are both up significantly over last year,” said BGSTA Board member Mel Csank.
As of June 21, 308 nests have been documented, versus 281 at the same time last year. So far there have been 404 false crawls reported, compared to 259 in 2018.
“While that seems like a drastic change in the number of false crawls, much of it is at the north end, where coyote activity is impacting crawl and nesting success,” Csank said. “We’ve also heard reports that false crawls are up in off-island areas, so it is difficult to attribute the numbers to the renourishment.”
In the zones impacted by the renourishment, the organization reports there were only 10 false crawls versus the prior year, and in that same area there are fewer nests than last year.
“It appears that the turtles have adapted and moved to the more peaceful zone 5, where we have an additional 17 nests versus 2018,” Csank said. “Overall, it’s been a great season for the turtles, with nesting of both loggerheads and green turtles up from last year.”
The coming weeks will show the success of the 22 relocated nests.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed that these nests hatch normally.”
The pipeline on the beach was a result of the current renourishment project, which is expected to be completed over the next week. The demobilization project is expected to last through this weekend.
The green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) faces many threats both on land and in the water and is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Their distinctive crawl and nest that looks like a bomb crater is far more rare on the island than the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta). Typically we have fewer than 10 green turtle nests each season.
Association volunteers would like to remind everyone to be cognizant of your surroundings when visiting the beach. Sea turtle nesting season officially began on May 1, and it’s more important than ever to remember to cover up holes and knock down sand castles when visiting the beach. Always dispose of any trash, and remember – no lights at night.
Only one in 1,000 baby loggerhead sea turtles survives to adulthood, but with your help, the number that could thrive could drastically improve.
The hatchlings are about the size of a ping-pong ball, and if they survive land predators like bobcats and coyotes, they feed on small organisms living in seagrasses (called sargassum), where they spend their early developmental years.
Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) were listed under the Endangered Species Act as threated in 1978. Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are considered threatened, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
If you see a stranded or dead manatee anywhere in state waters or a stranded or dead sea turtle, dolphin or whale, call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at (888) 404-FWCC (3922)