Scientists Explain Record Number of Loggerhead Nests
We now have 659 loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nests on Sanibel, breaking the previous record number of 649 set in 2017! The record for loggerhead nests on Captiva was broken earlier this season and we’re now up to 265 loggerhead nests on Captiva, well beyond the previous record of 194 nests set in 2016!
This season’s nest counts are very encouraging and are a testament to over 60 years of conservation work on Sanibel and Captiva, as well as the entire state of Florida and the surrounding waters. However, it’s important to keep in mind that monitoring population trends based on nest counts is very complicated.
Sea turtles have complex life cycles. Females lay more than one nest per year and do not typically reproduce every year, so even when the population is stable, it’s natural to see fluctuations in nesting from year to year.
A 2019 review by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) revealed that there was no evidence for an increasing or a declining trend in the breeding female population from 1998-2018. This remains a fragile population that is still facing many threats, including bycatch in fisheries, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change.
While we can’t make inferences on the population as a whole, SCCF data from the last six years clearly show that Sanibel provides high-quality nesting habitat for loggerheads.
The average number of loggerhead nests on Sanibel from 1998-2013 was 236 nests per year. For the past 6 years (2014 – 2019) that average has skyrocketed to 561 nests per year!