The Dry Tortugas National Park is the most active turtle nesting site in the Florida Keys. Park Service biologists have been monitoring sea turtle nesting activity within park boundaries since 1980. They survey the park’s seven islands daily throughout the nesting season and document the presence of turtle tracks or “crawl.” When researchers find a specially-shaped mound of sand on the beach, they know it is a nest. Each nest is marked and recorded. Forty-five days later the nest is checked for signs of hatchlings. Three days later, researchers evacuate the nest, release the trapped hatchlings, and record the number of eggs. Over 2,330 Loggerhead and Green turtle crawls have occurred during the last four seasons on only three miles of beach!
The five species of sea turtles found in the Dry Tortugas region are Green, Loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley, Hawksbill, and Leatherback. The Dry Tortugas area is the most productive nesting region for the Green and Loggerhead turtles in the entire Florida Keys. All five species were once more abundant; now all five species are listed on the Endangered Species Act.
The Green Turtle population in the Caribbean basin before the Industrial Revolution was around 660,000,000. Today, the population is only in the ten’s of thousands.