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Leatherback Nesting in Florida

The 2020 sea turtle nesting season is coming to an end. We had 219 beaches surveyed this year, covering approximately 839 miles of Florida’s coastline. Our permit holders are working hard to compile their data for the annual reports that are due to FWRI by November 30th. As you can imagine with so much data coming in, it takes time to proof and verify these data before we can post the final numbers to our webpage. We strive to have finalized data by the end of January 2021, so please check back to find out how many sea turtle nests were observed during the 2020 season. Thank you for your interest in sea turtle conservation.

Nesting Leatherback
Photo Credit: Cheryl L. Sanchez

With the exception of a few nests on the west coast, leatherbacks nest almost exclusively on the east coast of Florida. In fact, about 50 percent of leatherback nesting occurs in Palm Beach County.

Leatherback sea turtles are named for their rubbery shell and are the largest sea turtles. Adults can weigh between 700 and 2,000 pounds and reach 4 to 8 feet in length.

Leatherback nesting in Florida occurs primarily from March through July. A female typically nests at intervals of two to three years, depositing multiple nests per season. Leatherbacks lay an average of 73 fertilized eggs about 25 yolkless eggs per clutch (Stewart et al., 2006). With the exception of a few nests on the west coast each year, leatherbacks nest primarily on the east coast of Florida. To view leatherback nest density by beach, see the Statewide Atlas of Sea Turtle Nesting Occurrence and Density.

Map of Leatherback Nest Density
Leatherback nest density (measured in number of nests per kilometer of beach) in Florida during the last five-year period (2011-2015). High-density beaches are those having the top 25 percent of density values (red); low-density beaches have the lowest 25 percent (yellow); and beaches with densities between these two categories are defined medium-density beaches (orange). White indicates beaches where leatherbacks were not observed to have nested during the five-year period.


Stewart, K. and C. Johnson.  2006.  Dermochelys coriacea — Leatherback Sea Turtle.  In:  Biology and Conservation of Florida Turtles, P.A. Meylan, Ed. Chelonian Research Monographs 3:144-157