Impact of Hurricane Irma on sea turtle nests in Palm Beach County

To: Loggerhead Marinelife Center Media Partners
From: Jack E. Lighton, President & CEO, Loggerhead Marinelife Center


Loggerhead Marinelife Center and the Juno Beach Pier remain closed as we assess the damage from Hurricane Irma. Our campus is currently without power, however we are happy to report that our team and sea turtles are safe from the storm.

We extend our sincere gratitude to the team at the Georgia Aquarium who are helping us shelter and care for our patients at this time. We hope to have our patients make the journey home by this upcoming weekend.

Palm Beach County has some of the most important sea turtle nesting beaches in North America.

Heavy storms and increased wave action, like what we experienced from Hurricane Irma, have likely washed out sea turtle nests, exposing eggs on Palm Beach County beaches.

Our Center is getting inundated with phone calls about sea turtle eggs, which were washed out of nests on our local beaches.

If beach goers encounter sea turtle eggs that were washed out, they are encouraged to leave them in place on the beach. Once an egg is washed out of the nest, unfortunately it is no longer viable.

If beach goers encounter a stranded sea turtle hatchling (baby) they are asked to put it into a bucket/container with damp sand – no water – and bring them to the 24-hour hatchling drop-off container at the front entrance of Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida in Loggerhead Park.

If beach goers encounter a stranded sea turtle or cannot transport a hatchling to the sea turtle hospital at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, please call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) immediately at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or you may dial *FWC or #FWC on your mobile phone. Once you have contacted FWC you are also welcome to call the center at our 24 hour Emergency Response number (561-603-0211) if you are in need of assistance with the rescue.

No season is a complete loss for sea turtles. Sea turtles spread out their nests over the course of the season as well as different locations on the beach so that no single event (e.g., storms, predators, etc.) results in a total reproductive loss. Prior to the storm, we had approximately 38 percent of our nests still incubating on the beach (the majority of which were green nests).
  • Since leatherbacks are the first ones to nest, none of their nests were impacted by Irma.
  • Approximately 6.3 percent (about 700 nests) of our total loggerhead nests were lost to Irma.*
  • Green turtles are the last to nest and their season aligns with peak hurricane season. However, greens have adapted to these natural weather events and usually lay their eggs higher on the beach than the other two species. Approximately 17.5 percent (about 1,360 nests) of our total green nests were lost due to Irma.*
  • Overall, we lost approximately 10.8 percent (about 2,060 nests) of our total nests to Irma. However, this was a record breaking year with over 19,000 nests laid on the 9.5-mile stretch of beach monitored by LMC’s research team! Even with Irma’s impact, our nest numbers are still higher after the loss than our previous record year (16,335 nests).
We still have nests left on the beach, and we have even recorded a few hatch outs in the past two days. Additionally, the greens are still coming up to nest – our team has documented 14 new green nests since our morning patrols resumed after the storm on Sept. 12.
*Our numbers are approximate, as we currently cannot access the south end of Juno Beach due to large escarpments and newly exposed rocks. These numbers are based on the areas that we have been able to access.
A special thank you to our research team, who put in countless hours in order to pull these these numbers together!

Stay tuned to our website and social media for further details.

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