Sea turtle nesting season could be record breaker in Central Florida

Experts expect tens of thousands of eggs to be laid

MELBOURNE BEACH, Fla. – Hurricane Matthew may have battered south Brevard County beaches last fall, but experts said there's no stopping sea turtles this season from laying tens of thousands of eggs.

"They've had millennia to adapt to changing environmental conditions. The sand should be right and the turtles should show up," Ray Mojica, from the Barrier Island Wildlife Sanctuary on State Road A1A, said.

Mojica said in this 20-mile stretch of south Brevard County beaches, loggerhead turtles last year laid 20,000 eggs, a very high number that could be surpassed this season.

"It should be very good. We've seen trends going up for both loggerheads and green turtles," Mojica said.

Experts said green turtle egg-laying trends alternate between even and odd years.

So while last year was low, 2015 was a record, and this year could break it.

"When they first started surveying these beaches for nests in the '80s, if they got 20-something green turtle nests, that would be considered a good year. And now we're getting in excess of 14,000 nests a year," Mojica said. "2015 was the highest we ever had for green turtles so we're expecting this year to be very high for green turtle nests. Hopefully, we break the record again."

The experts have some friendly reminders for everyone, including people who live here, about keeping your distance from the baby turtles, to help ensure they make it to the sea.

"If you live in a home on the beach, you turn your lights off because the lights can disorient turtles or it can disturb them and prevent them from coming on shore," Mojica said. "People on the beach at night need to avoid turtles. You can't bring a light out there. You can't approach them. It's against the law to do that."

With public support and after decades of conservation efforts, researchers say sea turtles populations are thriving.

The trend is expected to continue this nesting season.

"All of these efforts that have been put in over the last couple of decades have really paid off. It's one of the great conservation success stories in all of natural history," Mojica said.

Researchers said no sea turtles had begun nesting in Brevard County as of Friday, but leatherback turtles had begun laying eggs on beaches an hour south in Martin County.

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