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Date of Issue: October 12, 2006

Banner year for sea turtles on Island

With new sand and a lull in hurricanes, Anna Maria Island has enjoyed a "very fine year" for marine turtles, said Suzi Fox in totting up the figures for the 2006 nesting season just ending.

Her preliminary figures indicate the best "hatch rate" in many years, and the number of nests grew from years past - though short of the 2000 record-keeping.

Sand quality was excellent for turtles in the renourished parts of the beach, which many feared wouldn't be as turtle-friendly as the former beach. "But it was very good for turtles and for people," said Fox, who heads the Turtle Watch volunteers here.

Coquina Beach's marine turtle population dwindled substantially, due mostly to a dwindling beach, Fox said. There were only a dozen nests there this year, where in the past was prime nesting area.

Another upbeat aspect of the season was the increase in volunteers for Turtle Watch, who walk the beaches every morning to find indications of overnight turtle nesting, keep watch over the nests they've already noted, help baby turtles into the Gulf when they go astray or run into obstacles, and otherwise lend a hand to the baby behemoths whose history is measured in millennia.

The 2006 season saw 118 nests on the Island, which held 9,778 eggs that hatched 7,477 babies for a "super terrific" 77 percent hatch rate, Fox said. The only recent years that outstripped her records were 2000 with 207 nests and 1996 with 171; both had hatch rates near 70 percent. 

Last year was a lagging 97 nests with a sorry 43 percent hatch rate. All of which isn't bad when viewed over a longer period - there were only 45 nests recorded in 1982 and 25 in 1988.