Dec 21 2021

Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol Experiences Longest Season To Date

By Jane Magioncalda for The Island Connection

The Seabrook Island Turtle Patrol (SITP) celebrated a stellar season in 2021. The year began earlier than expected when the first nest in South Carolina was found right here on our beaches on May 5. The fun continued throughout the summer and on Aug. 27, patrol members found the last loggerhead nest in South Carolina near walkway 6. That nest finally hatched on Oct. 27, allowing the team to perform an unprecedented Halloween Eve inventory with some members working in costumes. This turtle season was longer than any other in our history. 

Over 113 Seabrookers volunteered their time and efforts to this wonderful endeavor and this year, we found the second highest number of nests at 76. A total of 8,642 eggs were laid on our beaches with a mean hatch success rate of 80% and a mean emergence success rate of 74.6%. So many people tell us that witnessing a turtle inventory is one of the highlights of their time at Seabrook and they, along with their kids and grandkids, look forward to them each summer. 

Unfortunately, we were acting under COVID protocols again this year and did not publicize these events. Still, when people saw our group in their colorful turtle tee shirts gathering on the beach along with the patrol truck, they came to see the activity. Members of our education committee attended each inventory to talk to the public about sea turtles and the importance of respecting the environment so these turtles might have a better chance of overcoming the daunting odds of survival. Seeing a small hatchling make its way to the water is something no one ever forgets. 

This year, patrol members assisted 276 hatchlings to the water during these inventories. 

In addition to walking the beach early each morning to look for, protect and monitor nests, the members of the patrol pick up debris along the way and alert the beach patrol to larger items that need to be removed. As nests get closer to the anticipated emergence date (typically 50-70 days after the nest is laid), members of the patrol go out in the evening to check that there are no obstructions that would interfere with the ability of the hatchlings to scramble out of their nests to the ocean. Typical obstructions include excess sand or wrack build up, personal property left on the beach, unfilled holes in the sand or lighting from beach facing properties. Any of these can result in lost hatchlings, something we all hope to avoid. SITP is licensed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and the data that we collect is shared with SCDNR to help track the survival and reproductive performance of sea turtles throughout the State and Southeast coast. SITP is supported financially by the Seabrook Island Property Owners Association, the Town of Seabrook and public donations. 

We welcome everyone’s support and well wishes and look forward to an even better season in 2022.

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