There are five species of sea turtles that nest from May through August on Florida beaches, with hatching stretching out until October.  The loggerhead, the green turtle, and the leatherback all nest regularly in the Panhandle, with the loggerhead being the most frequent visitor.  Two other species, the hawksbill and Kemp’s Ridley nest infrequently.  All five species are listed as either threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Due to their threatened and endangered status, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/Fish and Wildlife Research Institute monitors sea turtle nesting activity on an annual basis.

A group checks out a recently hatched sea turtle nest on the dunes in south Walton county in Florida.

Annual total nest counts for loggerhead sea turtles on Florida’s index beaches fluctuate widely and scientists do not yet understand fully what drives these changes. From 2011 to 2018, an average of 106,625 sea turtle nests (all species combined) were recorded annually on these monitored beaches.  In 2018, there was a slight decrease in nests with only 96,945 nests recorded statewide.  This is not a true reflection of all of the sea turtle nests each year in Florida, as it doesn’t cover every beach, but it gives a good indication of nesting trends and distribution of species.

 

 

 

2015-2018 Florida Panhandle turtle nesting totals for all species.

If you want to see a sea turtle in the Florida Panhandle, please visit one of the state-permitted captive sea turtle facilities listed below, admission fees may be charged. Please call the number listed for more information.

  1. Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory
    222 Clark Dr
    Panacea, FL 32346
    850-984-5297
    Admission Fee
  2. Gulf World Marine Park
    15412 Front Beach Rd
    Panama City, FL 32413
    850-234-5271
    Admission Fee
  3. Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
    1010 Miracle Strip Parkway SE
    Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548
    850-243-9046 or 800-247-8575
    Admission Fee
  4. Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Center
    8740 Gulf Blvd
    Navarre, FL 32566
    850-499-6774

 

The Foundation for The Gator Nation. An Equal Opportunity Institution

Laura Tiu

Sea Grant Extension Agent - Okaloosa and Walton Counties