First sea turtle nest of season located on Venice Beach

For 7th year in a row, nesting begins before official May 1 start

This is the first sea turtle nest of 2024 in Sarasota County. Photo courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory

For the seventh year in a row, Mote Marine Laboratory has documented a sea turtle nest in Sarasota County prior to the official May 1 start of nesting season.

Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program (STCRP) recorded the first local nest of this season on Sunday, April 28, on Venice Beach, Mote reported on April 29. “This marks the beginning of a crucial period for sea turtle conservation,” a Mote news release pointed out.

In 2021, the first nest of the season was discovered on Earth Day, April 22, Mote reported at the time. Yet, during the prior year — 2020 — Mote announced that the first nest was found even earlier — on April 20.

In 2019, Mote reported a total of eight nests had been counted from April 21 through April 27, while two were recorded in late April 2018.

“At the heart of STCRP’s conservation efforts are the dedicated individuals of the Sea Turtle Patrol,” the Mote release explains Comprising STCRP staff, interns and more than 300 volunteers, the Sea Turtle Patrol team began monitoring the Sarasota area beaches on April 15, the release says. “Their commitment and passion are the driving force behind Mote’s nesting research success,” the release notes.

From April 15 through Oct. 31, the Sea Turtle Patrol conducts daily monitoring, the release points out. Each day, the members “diligently survey a staggering 35 miles of beaches, from Longboat Key to Venice.”
“Even though sea turtle nesting season isn’t officially supposed to start until May 1, we like to be prepared and patrol early to make sure we catch the first signs of nesting on our beaches,” Melissa Macksey, senior biologist and conservation manager of the STCRP, said in the release. “Our enthusiastic volunteers and interns make patrolling 35 miles of beaches possible. We could not do it without them. They are the reason we were able to catch this early nest,” she added in the release.

“The first nest [this year] was laid by a loggerhead sea turtle, a threatened species protected under federal law,” the release points out. Loggerheads are the most common species on Southwest Florida nesting beaches, the release explains, “followed by endangered green sea turtles.” In recent years, the release says, Sarasota County also has hosted “a handful of endangered Kemp’s ridleys, among the smallest and rarest sea turtles.”

During nesting season, the release adds, the STCRP documents nesting activities, which allows the team members to analyze trends, “phenological shifts (timing of nesting events in relation to the seasons), nesting density (the number of nests in a given area), emergence success (the number of eggs in a nest that produces live hatchlings that surface),” environmental impacts, and the effects of nest site selection. “The STCRP will continue its long-term studies of local sea turtles,” the release says. As the members of that team have over the past four decades, the release adds, they will “mark each nest with yellow stakes and flagging tape while observing and collecting data.”

Mote’s research shows that nest numbers have increased on local beaches in recent years, the release notes. In 2023, Mote reported 4,284 nests from Longboat Key to Venice.

The total in 2022 was 4,538; in 2021, it was 3,763, which was slightly above the 2020 count of 3,747.

These are the final sea turtle nesting numbers for 2023 for Sarasota County. Photo courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory

The public may view Mote’s weekly counts of sea turtle nests within the patrol area at

Protecting the turtles and their hatchlings

“Now that we have identified the first nest of the season, we implore beachgoers to be conscious of the sea turtles while enjoying Florida’s unparalleled beaches,” said Macksey in the release.

Mote provides numerous recommendations for fostering the survival of hatchlings:

What to do on the shore

  • “If you encounter a nesting turtle or hatchlings, remain quiet and observe from a distance
  • “Shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October
  • “Close drapes after dark and put beach furniture far back from the water
  • “Fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water.”

What not to do on shore

  • “Approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles.
  • “Use flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach.
  • “Encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water.
  • “Use fireworks on the beach.”

On the water

  • “Follow U.S. Coast Guard-approved safe boating guidelines and use vigilance to avoid striking sea turtles and other large marine life.
  • Be sure to stow trash and lines when underway. “Marine debris that accidentally blows overboard or out of a truck can become ingested by or entangled around marine life.
  • “Wear polarized sunglasses to better see marine life in your path.
These are the tallies of sea turtle nests and false crawls in Sarasota County from 2016 through 2019. Photo courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory

Emergency contacts

Mote also emphasizes that if a member of the public sees a sick, injured or stranded sea turtle in Sarasota or Manatee county waters, the individual should contact Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program at 888-345-2335. “Outside of Sarasota or Manatee counties,” the release says, “please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 888-404-FWCC (3922).”

Leave a Comment