Imagine coming back to an island 30-45 years after first rising above the sand and seeing the changes that have occurred over time. Listen to the sea turtle and she, (yes she), will tell you. After decades of research, cooperative efforts and listening to the “Loggerhead Diaries”, we now know that the average Loggerhead sea turtle reaches nesting maturity at around 30-45 years of age. Once mature, females come ashore every other year to lay eggs in the same area, or close proximity, to the area they were born. These turtles will nest several times during nesting season throughout their lifetime.
The turtle nests we see on the island today are mainly Loggerhead turtles that hatched 30+ years ago and the number of nests, especially in the last decade, have increased dramatically compared to 45 years ago. The Loggerhead history lesson? Conservation awareness saves lives! Two very important factors were instrumental in this increase in nests (and turtle hatchlings) and both deal with legislation in the 1970’s and 80’s regarding the use of shrimp and fish netting. Conservation organizations and individual pioneers worked together with fish and shrimping industries to develop and implement new netting practices. Many are not here today to see what 40+ years of conservation can do. Luckily, these endangered turtles are here to “show and tell” us! Specific conservation efforts can take years to see results, but the wait is worth it.
The “Loggerhead Diaries” don’t stop there. They have many stories to tell. Just think about this – the turtle hatchlings from 45 years ago are the ones returning to their original nesting spots and the shores of Anna Maria Island today. They could very well be telling us about what our shorelines looked like 30+ years ago. Turtles like nesting in areas of darkness. As we observe clusters of nests in particular areas along Anna Maria Island, one could imagine that these areas were once places of more dense foliage and little development. Their story could be giving us a picture of the topography of Anna Maria Island and Florida’s west coast shores 50 years ago. Knowing that these beautiful creatures carry secrets and stories further inspires us in shoreline conservation efforts.
Stay tuned for 2 particular turtles, “China” and “Eliza Ann”. They have amazing Loggerhead stories to tell!
For more information from Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring Click here and find out about “Turtle Talks” on Anna Maria Island.
Photo Credit: Suzi Fox/Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring