Season nears end, still active

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Debbie and Henry Stachura, AMITW volunteers, collect data Sept. 22 from a green sea turtle nest that hatched Sept. 19 at Coquina Beach. The nest contained 10 unhatched eggs, 79 hatched eggs and one live hatchling that was released to the Gulf. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW
Several people observe Sept. 26 as turtle watch volunteers Carl Jelovich and Dixie Lampers excavate a loggerhead nest. The nest hatched Sept. 23 on the beach near Katie Pierola Sunset Park in Bradenton Beach and contained six unhatched and 120 hatched eggs, as well as one dead and one live hatchling. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
A loggerhead hatchling is released Sept. 26 to the Gulf after being discovered by turtle watch volunteers during a nest excavation in Bradenton Beach.

Sea turtle nesting and hatching season on Anna Maria Island officially ends Oct. 31, but turtle watch is keeping busy.

“We have about one more month left of nesting time,” Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, said Sept. 26.

She said that while mostly loggerheads nest on the island, green sea turtles nest later in the season. AMITW already has documented nine green nests — the most of any season since the organization started collecting data in 1992.

“We could still get more green nests,” Fox said, adding that AMITW has a contract with Manatee County to monitor the beaches for sea turtle and shorebird activity until Oct. 31.

Fox said as loggerhead nesting and hatching slows, turtle watch is planning for 2020, which includes promoting more effective lighting — for people and sea turtles.

She said she plans to approach Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach to update sea turtle regulations in both cities.

“They drafted them in the late ’90s, and we are entering into the year 2020,” Fox said of the rules, which require proper — sea turtle-friendly — lights and the removal of objects from the beach at night.

“There are so many advances — the people no longer have to turn out lights or switch to red bulbs. They can light their properties with brighter people and turtle-friendly bulbs.”

Fox also said she is working with Florida Power and Light to install amber-colored streetlights, as standard white lights visible from the beach may be the cause of disorientations.

Additionally, she said some of the commercial parking lot lighting near East Bay Drive and Manatee Avenue in Holmes Beach emits sky-glow that could draw hatchlings away from the beach.

“We need to take the time to get everything lined up before next season begins,” Fox said. “It’s a constant work-in-progress that requires a team effort.”

As of Sept. 26, 32 nests remained to hatch on the island out of a record-breaking 544 laid since May 1, and about 26,308 hatchlings had made their way to the Gulf of Mexico.