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Florida Sea Turtles Have Productive 2010 Nesting Season; 'We're Encouraged By The High Count'

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), all three species of sea turtles that nest regularly on the state's beaches had annual nest counts well above average for the previous 10 years.

This news is especially good for loggerhead sea turtles, which have experienced declines in nesting in recent years. Loggerheads, the species that most commonly nests in Florida, had nest counts that were 30 percent higher than the 10-year average.

"We're encouraged by the high count, especially considering the oil spill and the extreme cold weather earlier in the year," said Dr. Blair Witherington, an FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute scientist. "However, one good year can't reverse a declining trend. It will take many years of data to determine if this is a new nesting trend – obviously one that we would like to see continue in the future."

Nest numbers for leatherback and green sea turtles also continued to increase, with nests in 2010 totaling the second-highest since standardized counts began in 1989.

Nest counts are performed each year through Florida's Index Nesting Beach Survey, which was created to measure seasonal sea turtle nesting, and to allow for accurate comparisons among beaches and years. The standardized index counts take place on 248 miles of selected beaches along both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

In one of the largest wildlife counts in the nation, hundreds of partners diligently survey Florida's Index Nesting Beaches throughout the summer sea turtle nesting season.

"It's a big job that requires a dedicated group of nest-counting experts," Witherington said. "It's especially rewarding for those involved when the turtles make a good showing."

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