Sea Turtle Nest Numbers Down But Trending Up

Oct 4, 2018

Sea turtle nesting season is officially over. Scientists and volunteers counted 1,742 nests this year. That’s nearly half as many reported in 2016.

Commissioner Mark Williams with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources said they expect the number to vary each year.

“When a loggerhead sea turtle nests, she has to take at least one year off – sometimes two or three years to get enough protein to get into reproductive condition and to come back and nest,” Williams explained.

He said this year’s nest count was still above average and, overall, nesting is increasing by an average of 3 percent annually. More than 90,000 turtle hatchlings have emerged so far this year. The vast majority are Loggerhead sea turtles.

There are still around 30 known nests on Georgia's coast. Baby turtles continue to hatch through mid-October. All of the remaining hatchlings will be female. 

"The temperature of incubation determines the sex of the hatchlings," Williams explained. "Most of the late nests have been incubating in very hot conditions in August and September. Whereas nests that are deposited early in the season  in early May are primarily incubating during cooler spring temperatures and we get mostly males out of those nests."

He said this year scientists discovered a gene that is involved in this process, but they continue to investigate the science behind the evolutionary phenomenon.