Green Sea Turtles Gain Ground in Florida

Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) have made a huge comeback in Florida, where most of their nests are located in the United States. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there were only 62 nests in the state in 1979. By contrast, 35,000 nests were found in 2013—35 years after the animals were placed on the list of species protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Nesting season for the turtles runs from spring to early fall. Perhaps the most dangerous journey the turtles will make is from nest to sea because of the potential to be killed by predators, crushed on the beach, or confused by lights from buildings or homes. Efforts to restrict beach development and keep lights off near beaches during the nesting season have helped ensure that the turtles have enough space to nest and eventually crawl toward the ocean. With the federal listing also came a ban on harvesting turtle eggs, turtle fishing, and the sale of turtle meat—all of which helped protect the turtles from exploitation and recover populations.

However, green sea turtles still face significant threats from boats, fishing line, litter on beaches, and fibropapillomatosis—a disease that causes them to grow tumors all over their bodies. The disease—possibly caused by a virus—is likely linked to ocean warming and pollution, including agricultural runoff.