Nearly 90% of sea turtle nesting in the United States occurs in Florida. During the nesting season adult females will return to the their home beaches to deposit approximately 100 golf ball sized eggs, which they will gently cover with sand before spreading sand over a wider area to obscure the exact location of the chamber. The adult females will then return to the water and some 45 to 55 days later the hatchlings will emerge. Scientific estimates indicate that only one in every 1,000 hatchlings will survive to become a reproductive adult sea turtle.
Loggerhead turtles are the most common sea turtles to nest in Florida and they are listed as a ‘threatened species’, which means that they may become endangered in the future. Green and leatherback turtles also nest on these shores and they are already listed as endangered, meaning that they are at risk of becoming extinct.
Hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley turtles enjoy the waters off the shores of Florida, although they do not generally nest in the area. Hawksbill turtles are ‘critically endangered’ and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the rarest of the five turtles that frequent Florida’s waters and are the most endangered in the world.
In Florida there are many conservation programmes that work hard to ensure the safety of these beautiful creatures. Along Fort Lauderdale’s 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) of beaches, ‘nest sites’ have been cordoned off by the Broward Sea Turtle Conservation Programme. The programme moves some of the eggs deposited in chambers on these beaches to these marked sites for protection.
The street lights in these areas are dimmed during nesting season, as artificial lighting discourages adult females from nesting. Street lights can also disorientate the hatchlings who will emerge en masse and will travel towards the water using various environmental and inherited clues, such as the reflection of the moon.