Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


Management of Sea Turtle Nesting on Highly Urbanized Beaches in Broward County, Florida: To Relocate or Not to Relocate?

Event Name/Location

27th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, Myrtle Beach, SC, February 22-28, 2007

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Since 1981, intensive nest relocation has been used as the primary tool to minimize hatching disorientation by coastal lights in Broward County. It has always been recognized that nest relocation is a highly invasive, undesirable management tool but it was thought to be a necessity because only 5 of the 8 cities have lightning ordinances in place and at least 70 percent of Broward County beaches are brightly illuminated. In 2006, with the partial enforcement of coastal lightning ordinances, this policy was changed by mandate of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. No enclosed or open beach hatcheries were used and many more nests were left in situ. Preliminary evaluation of the disorientation incident reports from highly developed Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale by the Sea, and Pompano Beach indicate that the number of disoriented hatchlings ranged between 16,532 and 19,255 in 2006. In 2005, estimated range was 7334 to 9400. Accounting for disoriented hatchling tracks that reached the water, the estimated number of missing hatchlings ranged from 13,020 to 14,447 in 2006 and from 5,198 to 6,382 in 2005. These numbers may be underestimates because hatchling tracks are often indistinct and are easily removed by rain and wind. Of the 45 nests left in situ on the Fort Lauderdale strip, 22 disoriented. Thirteen of these disorientations were inside cages. While the new management procedures may have contributed to the disorientation loss of about 8000 more hatchlings than in 2005, the new protocol also appear to to have increased live hatchling production rates of relocated nests, possibly due to wider nest spacing and shorter relocation times and transportation distances. Based on comparison of the increases in overall live hatchling production rates of in situ and relocated nests from 2005 to 2006, we estimate that the new relocation protocol may have contributed to a 12 percentage point increase in the production of relocated nests this year. Comparison of the estimated hatchling production of all nests in 2006 with the projected hatchling production if the old procedures had been used, suggests that the new methods may have contributed to the release of an additional 18,500 hatchlings. This compares favorably with the increased loss estimate above. Further reduction of beachfront lighting, from increased enforcement of lighting ordinances and education, has the potential to greatly reduce hatchling disorientation losses and reduce the need for relocation even further.


NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-569.

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