Loggerhead sea turtles are nesting along Florida's beaches in strong numbers this year, according to researchers with the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
This year, surveyors counted 58,172 loggerhead nests along nearly 250 miles of Florida's coastline. The FWC said this is one of the highest counts since monitoring began in 1989.
"After a steep decline in Florida loggerhead nesting between 1998 and 2007, nesting has risen over the past five years," Blair Witherington, a FWC research scientist, said in a statement Friday (Oct. 19). The number of nests peaked at 59,918 in 1998 and hit a low with 28,074 in 2007.
"We're pleased to see this increase, but we recognize that loggerheads, and other sea turtle species, still face many challenges," Witherington added.
The loggerhead is federally listed as a threatened species and 90 percent of its nesting in the United States occurs in Florida, mostly along the state's east coast.
Researchers in Florida have also seen an increasing number of green turtles and leatherbacks — both federally endangered species. Surveyors counted 6,054 green turtle nests this year, which is down from last year but consistent with normal variation, according to the FWC. And 515 leatherback turtles were counted on survey beaches this year — compared with just 45 spotted on the same beaches in 1989.
Baby turtles will continue to hatch through November, FWC officials said, urging people to stay away from sea turtles on the beach.