Sea turtle nests break record as Volusia County preps for washback season

This 1,106 nests record comes 2 months into nesting season

Volusia County sees a record-breaking 1,106 sea turtle nests on its managed beaches. (Volusia County)

NEW SMYNA BEACH, Fla. – A record-breaking 1,106 sea turtles nests have been deposited on Volusia County beaches, and nearly half of them are in New Smyrna Beach, according to county officials.

This record comes two months into nesting season and after fluctuating numbers since 2019. About 500 sea turtle nests are laid on the county’s beaches in a typical year between May 1 and Oct. 1, according to a news release.

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There were 780 nests in 2021, a drop from 2020 and 2019. County officials said that there are similar trends on other nesting beaches in Florida.

Volusia County staff and volunteers who mark and monitor nests also ask the public for help in ensuring the turtles’ safe passage to the ocean. The hatchlings’ journey to the ocean can be faced with problems such as trash, holes left by beachgoers and disorienting lights from beachfront homes, according to the release.

“We ask beachgoers to make sure the beach is dark, clean and flat at night so hatchlings can find their way offshore to the floating sargassum seaweed where they will spend the first portion of their lives,” Jennifer Winters, Volusia County’s protected species manager, said in the release.

Baby sea turtles can be caught in seaweed and washed back to shore. (Volusia County)

Many of the young turtles will be washed back to shore when summer storms send seaweed toward the beaches. This will make a busy washback season as the young turtles blend in with the seaweed, making them difficult to spot.

Winters said in the news release that beachgoers should contact Beach Safety instead of trying to put the turtles back in the ocean.

“These animals are often exhausted and can barely lift their heads to breathe. Holding them in water or putting them in the ocean can be fatal,” Winters said.

Beach Safety can be called at 386-239-6414, or the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office can be called between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. at 386-248-1777.

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