Special to SEGAZINE
Loggerhead sea turtles won’t set a fifth straight nesting record in Georgia this summer.
As of June 20, the nesting season midpoint, the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative had logged 464 nests. That’s about half the number through the same period last year, when the cooperative documented the most loggerhead nests – 2,289 – since comprehensive surveys began in 1989.
Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Mark Dodd of DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section said the less-than-blistering pace continues, with 806 nests as of July 7.
“We’re just having an average year,” Dodd said.
The previous four summers have been anything but average. Loggerheads, a federally threatened species and Georgia’s primary nesting sea turtle, set consecutive records for nest totals, even topping 2,000 the past two years.
Yet, average is also no surprise after the string of nesting highs. According to DNR’s quarter-century of survey data, annual fluctuations are more the norm. “It’s common to have several high years followed by a lower year,” Dodd recently wrote cooperative members.
The outlook this year is “very close to the 25-year average of 1,201 nests,” with so-so nesting also reported at many other beaches in the Southeast, he added.
Still, 1,000-plus is solid. (2007 saw a meager 689 nests.) And, with analysis already confirming that loggerhead nesting is on the rise in Georgia, Dodd can look at past years – when fat seasons followed lean ones – and see a possible surge in 2015.
“Given what’s happened in previous years, we would expect a big year next year,” he said.