COSM

Conservation Evaluation

Final evaluation of our conservation effort is based upon hatching success (computed by GaDNR from our spreadsheets) and the number of hatchlings (computed by us) reaching the ocean. The number of hatchlings produced from year to year is highly variable and dependent upon contingency; the history of a given nest and a given season; both of which are highly variable.

Once hatched, baby sea turtles must exit from the nest, scamper across a beach populated by hungry raccoon, Ghost Crabs, and feral hogs. In the ocean, hatchlings enter a swimming frenzy for approximately 72 hours, apparently in a dispersal mode to thwart predation by shore birds, fish, and other potential predators. Estimates of the numbers of hatchlings necessary to produce a single adult sea turtle capable of reproduction at 20 to 30 years of age range from 1,000 to 10,000.

 

conservation-evaluation_handfull

Scientists estimate one in a thousand of these baby Loggerhead sea turtles will survive to reproductive age! Is the lucky one in this picture? (Nest [06-001]).

We prefer the lower estimate, one reproductive adult sea turtle for every 1,000 hatchlings making it into the ocean. If this estimate is accurate, one can compute the number of adult sea turtles produced by each season’s work. From this total one can subtract the number of dead sea turtles found on an Island’s beaches in a given year. Subtracting the estimated number being removed from the number being produced each year gives an idea of the overall success of the sea turtle conservation movement in our region.

Compute those numbers for yourself and predict the status of sea turtles in Georgia in the future.

year nests hatchlings strandings net production
2007 51 2882 1
2006 124 9195 2
2005 115 9140 5
2004 59 3785 8
2003 141 11683 12
2002 77 3739 3
2001 51 3278 12
2000 112 9960 7
1999 125 6900 18
1998 86 4144 16
1997 96 7369 8
1996 118 6980 9
1995 136 4277 9
1994 184 8110 11 -2.9
1993 74 4898 0 +4.9
1992 148 7312 4 +3.3
1991 105 3271 6 -2.7
1990 145 9260 13 -3.7

The pattern of decline is readily apparent in these data. The decline of the sea turtles is a worldwide phenomenon as has been documented in The National Academy of Science publication, “Decline of the Sea Turtles.”

It is this real-world problem that forms the basis for The St. Catherines Sea Turtle Conservation Program and our resultant Science Education Program.

Last updated: 12/12/2014

Sea Turtle Program at St. Catherines Island • (912) 478-1744 • jgaskin@georgiasouthern.edu