The Blog Aquatic » sea turtle nesting http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Volunteers Help Protect Baby Sea Turtles From Ocean Trash http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/01/volunteers-help-protect-baby-sea-turtles-from-ocean-trash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/01/volunteers-help-protect-baby-sea-turtles-from-ocean-trash/#comments Wed, 01 May 2013 12:30:39 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5604 baby sea turtle heads toward the surf

Credit: nps.gov

Starting today, hundreds of volunteers will begin heading to the beach every morning just before sunrise in search of tracks left by some exciting visitors: female sea turtles coming ashore under the cloak of darkness to lay their eggs.

May 1 marks the start of sea turtle nesting season in the southeast United States; it’s the only time of year when these animals return to dry sand after spending almost their entire lives in the ocean. Female sea turtles tend to return to the same stretch of beach where they hatched to lay their own eggs. After hatching, baby sea turtles must dig their way out of the sand and sprint to the surf while avoiding predators ranging from foxes and raccoons to sea birds and ghost crabs.

The dedicated volunteers who walk these beaches every morning look for signs of new sea turtle nests so that they can monitor and protect the nest sites and track how many turtles hatch. Yet on most walks, these volunteers find more trash on the beach than sea turtle tracks.

While many man-made obstacles—from coastal development and artificial lighting to fishing and hunting—threaten sea turtles, trash is one threat that travels great distances and is present both on land and in the ocean. It is also entirely preventable.

We know that when trash items reach our ocean, they pose a severe ingestion risk for sea turtles, especially given the close resemblance of trash items like floating plastic grocery bags to a sea turtle’s favorite food: jellyfish. However, we don’t know much about the types of interactions sea turtles have with trash while coming ashore to nest.

Unfortunately, much of what we know about the interaction between sea turtles and trash is the result of studying dead and stranded sea turtles. In order to take a more proactive approach to learning about the potential for interaction between nesting sea turtles and trash, Ocean Conservancy is teaming up with the dedicated volunteers of the Wrightsville Beach Sea Turtle Project to pilot a new initiative.

Many of these volunteers already pick up trash on their morning turtle walks and even report what they find to Wrightsville Beach Keep It Clean. This season, volunteers will be equipped with an Ocean Conservancy data card for their sunrise turtle walks. The data card will help keep track of the individual trash items collected while patrolling for turtle tracks.

Once we receive these reports about turtle nests and trash, we can overlay the two data layers and start to learn more about the potential interaction turtles have with trash when they come ashore to nest. As we begin to learn more about stretches of beach more likely than others to yield trash-turtle interactions, we can implement mitigation strategies appropriate for that particular municipality or beach community. We are very excited to get this new initiative going and look forward to expanding this project along the East Coast.

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Building a Mosaic of Restoration Projects for the Gulf http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/19/building-a-mosaic-of-restoration-projects-for-the-gulf/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/19/building-a-mosaic-of-restoration-projects-for-the-gulf/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2012 14:38:52 +0000 Denny Takahashi Kelso http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1807 sea turtle mosaic

Credit: luxomedia flickr stream

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster harmed communities from Texas to Florida and damaged the Gulf ecosystem from the ocean floor to the surface across a vast swath of waters and shoreline. Restoring these damaged resources will require a comprehensive, Gulf-wide restoration plan that covers coastal environments, blue-water resources and Gulf communities.

Because wildlife like birds, fish and marine mammals move throughout the ecosystem making use of coastal, nearshore and offshore environments, effective restoration requires a holistic approach. For example, restoration efforts for oyster reefs or barrier islands in Texas should complement the work done in Alabama or in Florida so that the full suite of species and habitats can recover.

The state and federal officials responsible for creating such a plan, the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) Trustees, are making decisions about how to spend the balance of the $1 billion committed by BP for early restoration. The decisions they make about early restoration and about the longer-term restoration program to follow have the potential to pay enormous dividends to the Gulf for generations.

To help the Trustees build an effective plan, a coalition of nonprofit groups, including Ocean Conservancy, has created a portfolio of 39 projects that reflect an integrated and Gulf-wide approach to restoration.

No doubt, other projects could have been included, but the point is to start a conversation about how we collectively fulfill our vision of a healthy and prosperous Gulf. This portfolio is more than a mosaic of projects; it also initiates an ongoing dialogue about how to most effectively restore the damage to the Gulf from the BP Deepwater Horizon tragedy.

Here are a few examples from the portfolio:

  • Sea Turtle Nesting Beach Conservation: The five species of sea turtles found in the Gulf are all either endangered or threatened. This project would protect their nesting habitat and nearby waters as well as provide for rehabilitation and care of injured sea turtles.
  • Large-scale Seagrass Restoration and Protection: Seagrass beds are essential components of healthy, productive and biodiverse aquatic ecosystems. This project aims to restore those areas damaged by vessel traffic, boom placement and other response and recovery efforts in ecologically sensitive areas.
  • Monitoring Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles and Bluefin Tuna: Additional observation and biological sampling in the Gulf will help scientists understand any lingering oil-exposure effects on these species.
  • Oyster Reef Restoration: Rebuilding reefs for juvenile oysters to colonize also provides nursery habitat for fish and nesting area for birds while protecting shorelines from erosion.
  • Threatened Coral Recovery: Restoration of shallow-water corals will provide critical habitat for fishes and other reef inhabitants, improving the health and resilience of this unique reef community.
  • Rebuilding Marsh and Barrier Islands: Marsh areas provide nursery habitat and help prevent dead zones by absorbing excess nutrients; barrier islands provide critical habitat for nesting birds. By restoring these ecosystems, a wide range of Gulf species benefit.
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Encouraging Surprises Mark Turtle Nesting Time in the Gulf of Mexico http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/06/unexpected-surprises-mark-turtle-nesting-time-in-the-gulf-of-mexico/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/07/06/unexpected-surprises-mark-turtle-nesting-time-in-the-gulf-of-mexico/#comments Fri, 06 Jul 2012 15:36:46 +0000 Bethany Kraft http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=1520

Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling by Jacey Biery

There is nothing more satisfying than when wonderful surprises turn up in unexpected places — like a $5 bill left in your blue jeans, or loggerhead sea turtles in Mississippi. Wait, what?

Yep. After an absence of 20 some odd years, two loggerhead sea turtle nests on Mississippi’s coast have scientists scratching their heads over what Institute for Marine Mammal Studies executive director Dr. Moby Solangi is calling a “very important and significant phenomena.”

Experts are not sure why these turtles chose to nest on the Mississippi coast this year. Whether due to a loss of ideal habitat in other areas, or competition for prime nesting space, this year is an usual one for sea turtles in the Gulf.

Not to be outdone by Mississippi, Alabama’s beaches are also experiencing an uptick in turtle traffic. Check out this recent article in the Mobile Press-Register about higher than normal numbers of turtles nesting on the sugar white sands of Alabama.  Share the Beach volunteers in Alabama are working overtime to mark and protect the nests to ensure that as many sea turtles as possible make it to the Gulf, hopefully to return one day to the same beach to start a family of their own!

Habitat loss and human activity are two of the biggest threats to that happening. In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon disaster oiled miles of nesting habitat in the Gulf, and of course many turtles were harmed or killed by oil, making every acre of habitat and every egg laid precious.

What you can do to help:

  1. Support restoration in the Gulf. Ample nesting habitat is critical to sea turtles. And because they return to the same spot they hatched to lay their own eggs, we need to conserve and protect habitat for the long haul. From Florida to Texas, the health of sea turtle populations relies on our dedication and effort to protect them both in and out of the water.
  2. Share the Beach! When you head out to the beach for a little R&R, remember that you aren’t the only one enjoying the sand and surf. Turn off all outside lights at your hotel or condo at night. After hatching, sea turtles are guided into the water by the light of the moon and artificial lighting can confuse them.
  3. Don’t leave trash on the beach. Whatever you bring to the beach, take it with you or dispose of it properly.
  4. If you see a nest, don’t disturb it. It’s not only against the law, it’s not very nice.

Nesting season runs through October. Hopefully we will continue to bring you glad turtle tidings from the Gulf.

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