Hurricane Irma serves as a reminder that an entire nesting season could have been disrupted had the storm hit in July.
While the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma is still being assessed, volunteers with Sea Turtle Oversight Protection (STOP) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida have started its own assessment into the potential damage to sea turtle nests in Broward County, Florida.
“The beach was totally ravaged, however we did see some nest markers in place that were high up in the dune system,” Richard WhiteCloud, founder of STOP, told ABC News. “Some of those nests were left intact, but whether or not they’re viable, there’s no real way for us to know until they actually hatch.”
WhiteCloud noted that there were around 900 active nests in Broward County that may have been affected by the hurricane and the hatching season ends around October. WhiteCloud told ABC News that had the hurricane hit in July, the impact to the nests could have been devastating, as that is the peak time in which the eggs hatch.
“We literally have hundreds of nests hatching every night then.” WhiteCloud told ABC News that he and STOP volunteers will work with county officials to assess how the active turtle nests were impacted by the storm. He noted that while it wouldn’t be a catastrophic loss if some nests were destroyed by Hurricane Irma, he told ABC News that the event should be a reminder of the threats that sea turtles face.
“The lesson for us is that we could lose an entire inventory of sea turtle nests during one storm, which is why it’s imperative that we minimize the man-made impacts that cause loss to the animals during their season,” he said. “Being mindful of trash on the beach, artificial lights, pollution in the ocean, improper development, those are the things that we can and need to do something about.”
— Georgia Aquarium (@GeorgiaAquarium) September 8, 2017
Meanwhile, the Georgia Aquarium is caring for 40 sea turtle hatchlings and 10 adult green,leatherback, and loggerhead sea turtles it received from the Loggerhead Marine Life Center in Juno Beach, Florida for safekeeping from Hurricane Irma.
"The turtles are all rescues and our animal care teams are working alongside Loggerhead’s teams to provide uninterrupted care to them and are doing well," a spokesperson for the Loggerhead Marine Life Center told ABC News. "Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s ultimate goal following these turtles’ rescue and rehabilitation is release back to the ocean."