Sea Turtle Conservation and Research
The loggerhead sea turtle is found in Georgia’s coastal waters year-round and nests on barrier island beaches. In accordance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Marine Fisheries Service recovery plan for loggerheads, Georgia DNR management efforts focus on surveying and protecting loggerhead nests and managing nesting beach habitat. DNR coordinates the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative, a group of volunteers, researchers and government employees that conducts nest protection and management activities on Georgia beaches.
Nest management strategies such as nest relocation, installation of protective screens and removal of predators help ensure high nesting success. Since comprehensive surveys began in 1989, loggerhead nesting has been highly variable, with an average of approximately 1,000 nests per year. In 2010, 1,761 loggerhead nests were documented on Georgia beaches. According to the federal recovery plan, loggerheads may be considered recovered if the population shows a 2 percent annual increase for 50 years resulting in a statewide total of 2,800 nests annually. Cooperators found 1,646 nests in 2008 and 997 in 2009.
To develop a comprehensive understanding of the number and relatedness of loggerheads nesting on Georgia beaches, DNR and the University of Georgia have developed a catalog of unique genetic profiles for Georgia’s nesting female turtles. A UGA graduate student working with DNR has identified more than 1,000 loggerhead females using the Georgia coast for nesting. One of the many discoveries of this study is that there are at least 20 mother/daughter pairs nesting on our barrier beaches. Because it takes at least 30 years for a loggerhead to begin nesting, that means no fewer than 20 of our turtles are at least 60 years old, nesting alongside their 30-year-old daughters.
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