Florida Naval Base Sees Record Sea Turtle Hatchings Despite Hurricane

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Despite Hurricane Ian’s destruction in Florida earlier this month, a naval base located in the Sunshine State sees a record of sea turtle hatchings. 

According to First Coast News, Florida’s Naval Station Mayport stated that it has counted 54 loggerhead nests with more than 3,000 hatchlings. The Natural Resources Manager, Heather Hahn stated that she believes there are multiple factors that the base is seeing more hatchlings. This includes the base implementing the dark, flat, and quiet campaign on its beach. It also has made an effort to keep the lights down on the entire base during the hatchling season. 

“Normally what we are looking for at the end of the season is evidence of hatch,” Hahn stated. “We walk the beach the next day and we are looking to see overnight if they hatched out. You’ll see it because the nests have a depression in it and you’ll see the little tracks going towards the ocean.”

Hahn then stated that the last sea turtle nest was seen just before Hurricane Ian made landfall. While it was most likely washed away by the storm, the season was still considered successful. “It’s very significant for us,” she shared. “If you look at our historic nesting, about two decades ago, our average was about 10 nests a season.” 

Hahn further added that a program that was implemented in 2017 is helping the growth of the sea turtle population in the area. “We’ve done a lot at  Naval Station Mayport to ensure that our beach stays dark. In 2017, we did a major light retrofit to turn all of our lights into wildlife and sea turtle friendly lights.”

Florida Keys Family Says They Rescued Sea Turtle Hatchling During Hurricane Ian Cleanup

A Florida Keys family says they rescued a sea turtle hatchling while cleaning up Hurricane Ian debris.

A press release revealed that 8-year-old Khannan Mellies and his family named the sea turtle Ian. The hatchling was then transported to the Florida Key-based Turtle hospital in Marathon for care. It was eventually released back into the wild after observation. 

Meanwhile, nearly 250 sea turtle hatchlings found refuge at the Brevard Zoo after Hurricane Ian pushed them ashore. Florida Today reported some of the turtle’s nests had been dug up by predators. “We’re up to our eyeballs in little baby turtles,”  Jess Patterson, coordinator at the Brevard Zoo’s Sean Turtle Healing Center. 

It was noted that the first group of turtles was a mix of loggerheads and green turtles. “This is something that happens after hurricanes or big storms,” Patterson continued.  “So those big storms and all that wind will actually push in that sargassum along with the babies.”

It was noted that last year, eight babies were found along the shore. They were also brought to Brevard Zoo after a washback.