The number of sea turtle nests observed on local beaches by Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium researchers dropped this year, from 4,503 in 2017 to 3,151. While a significant decrease, this year's number remains the third highest recorded in the past 37 years. The highest number of sea turtle nests observed was in 2016, when Mote Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program volunteers observed 4,588 nests.
Of this year's total, 3,142 were loggerhead turtles; the remaining nine were green sea turtles. The nesting season began on May 1 and ended Wednesday. Mote observed nesting activity on a 35-mile stretch of beach from Longboat Key to Venice.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates that 116 sea turtles in Sarasota County were either killed or left stranded due to red tide this year. With this summer's algae bloom, adult male turtles were at risk of consuming contaminated food. Other dangers abound. Newly hatched sea turtles must make their way from the sand to the sea, facing natural predators, such as raccoons and coyotes. Artificial lights, such as headlights and restaurant signs, can also cause hatchlings to stumble into busy roads or swimming pools.