Many of Florida’s Sea Turtle Nests Were Destroyed by Hurricane Irma

By Karen Weintraub

In addition to wiping out homes and businesses, Hurricane Irma swept away a large number of sea turtle nests as it tore across Florida last month.

The state is a center of sea turtle nesting, and this year was developing into a very encouraging year for the endangered leatherback turtles, the threatened loggerheads and green turtles, said Kate Mansfield, a marine scientist and sea turtle biologist at the University of Central Florida. The hurricane suddenly dashed those hopes.

An official statewide picture of the damage to sea turtles won’t be available until Nov. 30, because the nesting season runs through at least the end of this month, said Simona Ceriani, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. But it’s clear that nests in many areas of the state were destroyed by Irma, she said.

The northwest Atlantic region is one of the world’s two largest loggerhead nesting areas, and 89 percent of those animals are hatched in Florida, Dr. Ceriani said, citing a 2015 assessment.

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