During 2020, EAI documented 13,920 loggerhead, 2,384 green turtle, and 528 leatherback nests. For comparison, EAI documented a total of 13,841 loggerhead, 5,532 green turtle, and 282 leatherback nests during the 2019 nesting season. Documenting a Kemp’s ridley nest in Volusia County was the season highlight as it is the world’s rarest sea turtle species! Please check out our Kemp’s ridley article below to understand why this event was so exciting!

The first nest of the season was a leatherback nest on February 11th, 2020 on Hutchinson Island. It was the earliest nest on record in the state of Florida! Our last documented nest was a green turtle nest on October 26th, 2020, in Indian River County. Long-term nesting trends observed in EAI’s survey areas are generally consistent with statewide patterns. 

The graph above encompasses a five-year time frame on Hutchinson Island. It shows a fairly steady nesting trend for loggerheads, the bi-annual nesting trend for green sea turtles, and a slight uptick in leatherback nesting. Please click here to learn more about EAI’s sea turtle services on our website

The past year presented many new challenges for the field staff at EAI, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to beach closures. Luckily our monitoring was not interrupted, so we were able to continue collecting valuable nesting data on our beaches. While there may have been fewer people on the beach overall, it did not necessarily result in fewer impacts to sea turtles nesting on the beach. Our staff documented more lighting violations in 2020 due to more people quarantining in beachfront homes and people unfamiliar with lighting regulations staying longer into the nesting season.

The effects of storms were not as catastrophic as in previous years. Tropical Storm Isaias and Hurricane Teddy, along with King Tide events, did cause the loss of nests along EAI beaches. Storms mostly impact green turtle nests because they are laid later in the nesting season. Despite the loss of nests, sea turtle populations are resilient to impacts from periodic storm events. During their nesting years, which is generally every two to three years, turtles lay several clutches (a group of eggs laid simultaneously) and continue to nest after storms have passed.

Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)Green (Chelonia mydas)Leatherback (Dermochelys Coriacea)

The table above summarizes the sea turtle nesting totals by species for an area EAI is responsible for monitoring from March 1st – October 31st. This area covers approximately 10 miles of beach along South Hutchinson Island from the St. Lucie Inlet in Sailfish Point to the Normandy Beach public access in St. Lucie County.

The 2020 season brought a new outreach platform at EAI. We hosted our first Virtual Public Excavation Program in partnership with the Florida Oceanographic Society. Events were hosted in Martin, St. Lucie, and Palm Beach Counties. EAI hosted one nest excavation filmed by The City of Delray Beach, which had over 20,000 views on Facebook. The EAI team monitors a selected nest and excavates it after the eggs have hatched to evaluate how many hatchlings  successfully made it to the ocean. We partnered with other organizations and produced eight live feeds on social media networks highlighting our work. EAI participated in other outreach efforts such as the Ocean Treasures Festival and a virtual Zoom presentation for the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets.