Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium has announced that sea turtles have officially arrived on Sarasota's beaches. Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program (STCRP) began monitoring Sarasota area beaches last week and discovered the first loggerhead sea turtle nest early Monday morning on Siesta Key. There was also a false crawl—that is, when sea turtle comes on the beach but returns to the ocean without creating a nest—on Longboat Key, also documented on Monday. On the west coast of Florida, Sarasota County is the most dense area of loggerhead nesting. Green sea turtles nest on area beaches, as well.
The start of this year's nesting season has already proven to be different from previous years in the face of beach closures due to COVID-19. However, Mote's monitoring of sea turtle nests is vital to monitoring the population of these endangered species, and in accordance with state and local guidelines, the organization is continuing its long history of sea turtle patrol on 35 miles of Sarasota-area beaches. Now in its 39th year, all monitoring is conducted with permission from local government to allow access to closed beaches, and Mote's sea turtle patrol is conducting all activities with a heightened awareness for social distancing and cleaning procedures.
In 2019, Mote documented a record-breaking 5,112 nests. You can follow this year's weekly numbers at mote.org/2020nesting; nesting season officially runs May 1-Oct. 31. Sea turtles, sea turtle eggs and nesting marking materials are protected under state and federal law and any harassment or interference with a sea turtle, living or dead, is subject to penalty.