Featured Image Credit: © William R. Curtsinger / National Geographic
By: Sarah Sharkey
Hurricane Irma was a powerful storm that caused destruction across the Caribbean and Florida. We are now finding out that the damage did not stop at human homes, the storm has apparently swept thousands of green sea turtle nests away as well.
Prior to the storm, 2017 had been a great year for green sea turtle nesting. The turtles set a record at 15,744 nests in Florida’s Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, an estimated 8,830 green turtle nests (over half of the original nests) were swept away by the storm. A substantial number of loggerhead nests were also swept away, about 24% of their nests were taken by the storm.
Green sea turtles were hit the hardest because they lay their eggs later in the year than other species. Loggerhead turtles laid their eggs earlier, so most of them had hatched by the time the storm hit. Both the loggerhead turtle and the green sea turtle are listed under the US Endangered Species Act and are classified as threatened.
Director of the UCF Marine Turtle Research Group, Kate Mansfield, said this about the losses, “Last year with Hurricane Matthew, we lucked out because it was a low green turtle year. This year was an extraordinarily exciting year for green turtle nesting, breaking all previous records within the refuge and continuing the conservation success story for the species. Unfortunately, we had another big hurricane this year, highlighting the need for continued conservation efforts in the area.”
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