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Clearwater Marine Aquarium says number of sea turtle nests increased this year

The aquarium says 313 sea turtle nests were observed by biologists, up from 281 last year.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Sea turtle nesting season has ended in Pinellas County, and biologists from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium say they observed 313 nests along the 21 miles patrolled by CMA in northern and mid-Pinellas. That number is up from 281 last year and 222 in 2020. 

In total, 487 hatchlings received treatment from CMA's vet team. 79 of those successfully rescued and rehabilitated were released offshore, while 324 were a beach release.

Experts say loggerhead sea turtles make up a majority of the nests observed. While more nests were spotted this year, biologists are unsure how many sea turtle hatchlings actually reach the water. 

"What we do know is that we observed an alarming number of disorientation events for our area that impact how successful the season is overall for the population," Sea Turtle Conservation Program Supervisor Lindsey Flynn said in a news release.

"Our patrollers were out on the beach and in the roadways for multiple hours in the middle of the night, recovering disoriented hatchlings. This was, in my opinion, our greatest challenge this season."

CMA says Flynn and her team observed 173 disorientation events out of the 200 days this season. CMA describes a disorientation event as a situation when sea turtles follow artificial light instead of celestial light, causing them to be found in places like hotel bathrooms, pools, and parking garages. The aquarium adds that disorientations are deadly for sea turtles and caused by humans. 

According to CMA, Pinellas County is one of the most densely populated counties in Florida and a popular tourist destination. 

"Every year we have an issue with beachgoers digging enormous holes which can become a huge hazard for humans and a tiny sea turtle hatchling making its way to the water," Flynn explained. 

Simple acts like knocking down sand castles, filling in holes, switching to wildlife-friendly light bulbs and fixtures, and disposing of trash properly can all help save sea turtles and make a positive impact on the loggerhead sea turtle population, the aquarium says. 


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