Sea Turtle Monitoring (the SNBS and INBS Programs)

The state of Florida, through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, coordinates two sea turtle monitoring programs: the Statewide Nesting Beach Survey and the Index Nesting Beach Survey.

The Northwest Atlantic Ocean’s loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nesting aggregation is considered to be the largest in the world (Casale & Tucker 2015External Website). Florida hosts approximately 90% of the nests associated with this aggregation (Ceriani & Meylan 2015External Website). The Florida green turtle (Chelonia mydas) nesting aggregation has been increasing exponentially and, in recent years, has become one of the largest in the western Atlantic (Seminoff et al. 2015Adobe PDF: FWC/FWRI Statewide Nesting Beach Survey database).

In all, five sea turtle species are represented on Florida beaches. Three, the loggerhead (Caretta caretta), the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), and the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), nest regularly; two other species, the hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii), nest infrequently. All five species are listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.


 

Sea Turtle Laying EggsFWRI coordinates monitoring of sea turtle nesting activity through two separate programs: the Statewide Nesting Beach Survey and the Index Nesting Beach Survey. The surveys are conducted through a network of permit holders consisting of federal, state, and local park personnel; other government agency personnel; members of conservation organizations, university researchers; and private citizens. FWRI staff coordinate data collection, provide training, and compile annual survey data for distribution to management entities, the research community, the press and the public.

Managers use the results to evaluate and minimize the effects of human activities (e.g., coastal construction, beach renourishment, and recreation) on turtles and their nests and identify important areas for enhanced protection or land acquisition.

Statewide Nesting Beach Survey Map
Statewide Nesting Beach Survey

The Statewide Nesting Beach Survey (SNBS) program was initiated in 1979 under a cooperative agreement between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Its purpose is to document the total distribution, seasonality and abundance of sea turtle nesting in Florida. Approximately 215 beaches are surveyed annually, representing about 825 miles.  From 2011 to 2015, an average of 106,625 sea turtle nests (all species combined) were recorded annually on these monitored beaches. 

View a SNBS Survey Areas Map (Adobe PDF PDF)

Index Nesting Beach Survey
Map of Florida Index Nesting Beaches

Since 1989, the Index Nesting Beach Survey (INBS) has been carried out on a subset of SNBS beaches with the purpose of measuring trends in the number of nests. The index survey uses standardized data-collection criteria including consistent effort by location, fixed dates, and specialized annual training of beach surveyors. As of 2016, 36 beaches participate to the INBS program, representing 275 miles of coastline.

Of the 212 SNBS surveyed areas, 33 participate in the INBS program. The combined efforts of the SNBS and INBS programs not only allow for the management and evaluation of coastal development efforts, but also promote the recovery of marine turtles.

View a INBS survey areas map (Adobe PDF PDF)

FWC coordinates the collection of nesting data through a network of permit holders consisting of federal, state, and local park personnel; other government agency personnel; members of conservation organizations, university researchers; and private citizens. Florida staff members coordinate data collection, provide training, and compile annual survey data for publications and data recession.

Data Gathering
Turtle Tracks

Survey data are derived from observations of tracks and other nesting signs left on beaches by sea turtles. Species identifications and determinations of nesting or non-nesting emergences are based on evaluations of features of tracks and nests (e.g., track width, track configuration, size of the body pit) as described by Schroeder and Murphy, Research and Management Techniques for the Conservation of Sea TurtlesExternal Website, and the FWC Marine Turtle Conservation Handbook.

Data are gathered through a network of permit holders consisting of private conservation groups, volunteers, consultants, academics, local governments, federal agencies, and the Florida Park Service. Managers use the results to evaluate and minimize the effects of human activities (e.g., coastal construction, beach renourishment, and recreation) on turtles and their nests and identify important areas for enhanced protection or land acquisition.

Nesting totals for the last five years by county are available for loggerheads, green turtles and leatherbacks:
Loggerhead nesting data 2012-2016 (Adobe PDF PDF)
Green turtle nesting data 2012-2016 (Adobe PDF PDF)
Leatherback nesting data 2012-2016 (Adobe PDF PDF)

Statewide Atlas of Sea Turtle Nesting Occurrence and Density
This resource provides a summary of the geographical distribution of sea turtle nest occurrence and nest density throughout the state of Florida during the last five years.

Acknowledgments
Funding for Florida's sea turtle monitoring programs has been provided by the Florida sea turtle license plate and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The program and database would not be possible without the dedication and hard work of the nearly three thousand permit holders and volunteers who carry out the beach surveys.



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