Sea Turtle Monitoring at St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve
Management activities at St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve
have been discontinued as of July 1, 2011. This page
describes one of the former ecosystem science programs
which will be restarted should revenue streams improve.
The Gulf beaches of St. Joseph Peninsula serve as nesting habitat
for the threatened loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) and the endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas).
St. Joseph Peninsula
has the highest density of nesting
loggerheads in the panhandle, with an average of 250
nests each year.
The volunteer-based Turtle Patrol monitored the
beach from the state park to the Stumphole. This
group was sponsored by the Central Panhandle Aquatic Preserve Office. Volunteers have monitored
sea turtle nesting since 1995.
Nesting season is from May 1st to October 31st.
Since 2002, sea turtle nesting
numbers have drastically declined.
Increasing development, lighting
issues, beach driving and severely eroded
shorelines may all play a role in
- Litter and recreational equipment left on the
beach at night can obstruct nesting females and hatchlings
and damage nests.
- Tire ruts can hinder
hatchlings from reaching the sea
and vehicles can damage nests.
- Beach cleaning rakes can penetrate or uncover nests.
- Beachfront lighting on or near beaches can deter
female sea turtles from nesting and
can interfere with their sea-finding ability after nesting
is completed. Artificial beachfront
lighting causes hatchlings to become misdirected during
their trip to the water.
The seagrass beds of St. Joseph Bay provide foraging habitat for the endangered juvenile
green sea turtle and for the Kempís Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii),
the most endangered turtle in the world. Population models
suggest that the most crucial stages for sea turtle
population recovery include juveniles, which utilize nearshore
habitats as development grounds, while sub-adults use them
as foraging areas.
More information on the Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
at St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve is available in the
St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve Management Plan.
December 13, 2012
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard M.S. 235
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
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