For 2019, Marco Island reported a total of 77 hatched nest, and of these, 15 exhibited disorientations. Expressed as a percentage of the total, 19% of Marco’s nests lost hatchlings to lighting issues. Countywide, the average rate was 2%. Marco’s rate was more than SIX TIMES the countywide average (19% vs. 2%).
During the months of May through October, Marco’s beaches are an important seasonal nesting habitat for sea turtles.
Season started with the first arrival of a nesting loggerhead sea turtle at Hideaway for the week of April 21-27th. However, that weekly reported 9 false crawls. False crawls occur then a female sea turtle emerges from the water but encounters a manmade object such as a beach chair on the beach or was spooked by noise or people or light and did not like.
The week of June 2-8, heavy torrential rains resulted in “washed over” or “washed out conditions.” Which meant that either the tide briefly swept over the nest for a few hours or that the nest sat with water on top of it for a day. The eggs are porous and the nest “breathes,” but a “washed out” can interfere with the air circulation drowning the nest. Sea turtle eggs absorb water and hatchlings can drown before they emerge. Even for this week, the rain did not deter some sea turtles to come up to the beach and nest.
Bright artificial light is a challenge for hatchlings. When disorientation occurs, hatchlings crawl the wrong way towards the light and sometimes they never make it to the water. Some are never found.
The week of July 14-20 reported the first 3 disoriented nests with Nest #6 disorienting very badly in front of the Somerset Condos with hatchlings found up the boardwalk of the Hilton. Also, Nest #4 reported hatchlings heading towards South Seas Towers 3 & 4.
The end of July also reported a list of sea turtle lighting violations that were brought before the Code Enforcement Magistrate. Six of the cases received a $500 fine with a $50 administrative fee while three violations received a fine of $250 plus a $50 administrative fee for a total fine of $4,200.
The end of August reported 4 cases of sea turtle lighting violations that were brought before the Code Enforcement Magistrate. The fines imposed ranged from $100 to $250 with $50 administrative fees. It was the 4th violation for the Tradewinds Condo Association and they were assessed $1000 with $50 in fees and costs.
From September 29 to October 5th, the Sea Turtle Weekly Update from Collier County Marco Island has reported 11 disorientations out of 67 hatched nests or about 16%. For the County as a whole (ten beaches), 38 disorientations from a total of 1,295 hatched nest represents an overall 3% rate. Marco’s rate is more than FIVE TIMES the countywide average of 3% hatched nest disorientations—16% vs. 3%. It seems that Marco Island can do a better job protecting these hatchlings.
The final tally for the 2020 Sea Turtle season will be forthcoming from Collier County and will have the final numbers.