Heroes in a Half Shell

Mote Reports Record-Breaking 2023 Sea Turtle Nesting Season

This year’s total is the fifth highest overall since Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program program began 42 years ago.

By Staff November 6, 2023

Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program recorded a total of 4,284 sea turtle nests this year.

Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program recorded a total of 4,284 sea turtle nests this year.

Sea turtle nesting season officially concluded on Florida’s Southwest coast on Oct. 31, and Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program (STCRP)—which patrols 35 miles of shore from Longboat Key to Venice each day of nesting season—has reported its findings. In short: 2023 was another record-breaking nesting season.

Throughout the season, the STCRP recorded a total of 4,284 nests across all sea turtle species—specifically, 4,091 loggerhead turtle nests and 193 green turtle nests. The program also documented the highest numbers of sea turtle nests—and specifically, the highest number of green turtle nests—ever in Venice. The current record for overall sea turtle nests was 5,112 nests in 2019. 

Even though Hurricane Idalia impacted beaches towards the end of the season, its impact on nesting was low, with 75 percent of nests completing incubation prior to the storm’s arrival. The majority of the remaining nests were washed out by the storm; however, sea turtles have a natural instinct to nest several times in one season, which can offset natural events.

A sea turtle hatchling makes its way to the Gulf.

The success of recent nesting seasons could be a result of the long-standing program and local engagement, giving the next generation of sea turtles a better chance of survival.

“Science-based sea turtle conservation is critical for maintaining endangered and threatened species populations,” says Dr. Michael P. Crosby, Mote's president and CEO. “Mote translates and transfers the interwoven science of our Sea Turtle Conservation and Research program, Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital and Strandings Investigations Research program to protect and rehabilitate these animals and their habitats. An example of a highly visible outcome of our work is the recently established voluntary Sea Turtle Protection Zone for boaters in our local waters.”

Mote senior biologist and conservation manager Melissa Macksey says she's thrilled to see sea turtle nest numbers continue to rise and is excited to see a growth in sea turtle species populations. In particular, green sea turtle nesting numbers have dramatically increased in the last decade. This species recovery in the Gulf of Mexico shows conservation efforts are working and should be maintained. 

“This year’s total is the fifth highest overall since our program began 42 years ago,” Macksey says. “We have learned and are still learning a great deal about the nesting behaviors of sea turtles individually and at the population level; the impacts of human activity and animal predators; sea turtle population trends; and more.”

A green sea turtle heads back to the Gulf of Mexico after nesting on Casey Key.

A green sea turtle heads back to the Gulf of Mexico after nesting on Casey Key.

At night, STCRP staff have expanded the tagging of nesting sea turtles to three beaches in Sarasota County: Siesta Key, Casey Key and Venice. This year STCRP encountered the highest number of individual turtles ever, at 528. Researchers identify unique turtles through flipper tags and use that data to answer questions about the turtles' behavior.

Mote’s STCRP contributes all of its data to a statewide cooperative effort to monitor sea turtle nesting, coordinated by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Here's a breakdown of sea turtle activity on local beaches during nesting season, which runs from May 1-Oct. 31.

Longboat Key

Loggerhead turtle nests: 978

Green turtle nests: 12

Lido Key

Loggerhead turtle nests: 184

Green turtle nests: 0

Siesta Key

Loggerhead turtle nests: 364

Green turtle nests: 7

Casey Key

Loggerhead turtle nests: 1,797

Green turtle nests: 167


Loggerhead turtle nests: 768

Green turtle nests: 7

For more information about Mote's sea turtle programs, click here.

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