Loggerheads in Danger: 2009 Nesting Data Shows Alarming Decrease
WASHINGTON -- Oceana announced yesterday that 2009 was one of the worst years on record for loggerhead sea turtle nesting from North Carolina to Florida. In Florida for example, loggerhead nesting decreased by more than 15 percent in 2009.
"The data is disappointing, but not surprising," said Kerri Lynn Miller, marine scientist at Oceana. "The downward trend will only continue unless permanent protections are established."
Florida accounts for nearly 90 percent of loggerhead nesting in the United States and is one of the two largest nesting hot spots for the population in the world. Florida’s loggerhead nesting population has decreased by more than 40 percent in the last decade and 2009 marked Florida’s fourth lowest nesting season on record.
Nesting was down from 2008 levels in Georgia, but loggerhead nesting numbers remained consistent. Preliminary data for South Carolina shows 2009 to be one of the worst loggerhead nesting years on record. In North Carolina, Topsail Island recorded its second lowest loggerhead nesting year since 2001 and Bald Head Island experienced its worst nesting year on record since 1983.
"We must protect sea turtles in the water and on land," said Dave Allison, senior campaign director at Oceana. "Sea turtles tend to forage in the same areas year after year and return to the same beaches where they were born to lay their eggs. Destructive fishing gear in key forage areas and development on nesting beaches pose grave danger to the struggling loggerheads’ survival."
On a positive note, ocean foraging and nesting beach conditions for Kemp’s ridleys in Texas and leatherbacks in Florida appeared to improve as 2009 brought the highest nesting year on record for both species.