It’s one of the best things to happen during the pandemic: due to beach restrictions, the nests of endangered sea turtles are thriving all over the world.
Many species of sea turtle face endangerment throughout the world, including the green, hawksbill, loggerhead, leatherback, and olive ridley species.
But sea turtles have shown promising improvements that give biologists hope for saving the species.
Scientists with the Loggerhead MarineLife Center monitored the nests of over 76 turtles in Juno Beach, Florida.
“We’re excited to see our turtles thrive in this environment,” Sarah Hirsch, manager of research and data at the MarineLife Center, told CBS. “Our world has changed, but these turtles have been doing this for millions of years and it’s just reassuring and gives us hope that the world is still going on.”
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has paid close attention to the recovery of sea turtles. Due to their recovery strategies and strict regulations, one of the largest species of endangered sea turtles, the loggerhead, has been making steady improvements toward recovery for the past few years.
According to NOAA, the biggest dangers to the species include: entanglement in marine debris, bycatch from the fishing industry, and degradation of suitable nesting environments.
The last of these issues has been greatly aided by an absence of beachgoers due to the pandemic lockdowns.
Loggerhead sea turtles primarily nest along the Atlantic coast, from Florida to North Carolina and along the Gulf of Mexico, creating approximately 68,000 to 90,000 nests per year. South Florida has long proven to be one of the largest loggerhead nesting sites in the world, with more than 10,000 females laying eggs each year.
This year, biologists monitored nearly 2,800 nests, nearing the annual goal for recovery of the endangered Loggerhead species for the first time in years.
Biologists report roughly a 4 percent increase in sea turtle nests each year, with a total of 279,104 eggs laid on Georgia coasts alone.
“We expect that thousands of hatchlings that ordinarily would be disoriented by lights this nesting season will not be,” David Godfrey, the executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, told The Guardian. “[They] are more likely to survive to reach the sea.”
It appears Godfrey’s estimation was correct. In the early days of the pandemic lockdown, over 100 sea turtles hatched on the deserted beaches of Brazil, which were off limits at the time.
Loggerhead sea turtles were spotted hatching on the abandoned shores of Lebanon in more than double their usual numbers.
On the Greek island of Zakynthos, over 1,800 sea turtle nests were found nestled along the beaches.
Currently, the loggerhead sea turtle has made it more than halfway to “upper bound” status on the endangered species recovery scale. This surge has given biologists hope that other sea turtle species will make their way toward recovery, too.
For now, conservationists advocate multi-use bags and the abolition of plastics and petroleum byproducts, as well as awareness about the treatment of sea turtle nests, to aid this majestic species on its journey toward recovery.