A quarter of the nation’s green turtles call the Florida Refuge

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Green turtles have had their ups and downs. They were so abundant that they were commercially harvested for hundreds of years in the Atlantic, but are now listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, depending on the location. .

They were one of the first species to be protected by regulation. It was in Bermuda in the 1600s. Apparently the effort didn’t work because that local population was wiped out.

Nowadays, however, their numbers are increasing. In the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, just below Cape Canaveral, they are having a record year. Researchers and students from the University of Central Florida’s Sea Turtle Research Group counted 12,804 nests on Thursday within 13 miles of the sanctuary beaches they monitor. This is the first time the number has exceeded 12,000, said Kate Mansfield, who heads the group.

This represents at least 25% of green turtle nests in the United States, and the result will likely be the emergence of more than 700,000 hatchlings, Dr Mansfield said.

“It’s a pretty phenomenal nesting place for sea turtles,” she said. The research group has monitored the area for 35 years, dating back to before the refuge was established in 1991.

She pointed out that while the news is good for green turtles now, turtles are a very long-lived species and long-term monitoring is essential. Turtles take 25 years to mature, and the nests now hatched around the time the refuge was established. They also benefit from the endangered species law, she said, and fishing regulations to reduce incidental catches of sea turtles.

The stretch of beach monitored by the university also has more than 12,000 nests made by loggerhead turtles. At the height of the nesting season there, she said, 400 to 500 nests can be dug each night.

If the turtle population continues to grow, it will be a crowded beach.


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