What happens to sea turtle nesting during and after beach nourishment?
The Martin County Coastal Engineering Department and its contractor Ecological Associates, Inc. maintains a comprehensive sea turtle monitoring and conservation program, to ensure that beach nourishment projects are designed and constructed to maintain the local beaches as vital sea turtle nesting habitat. Daily sea turtle nesting activity is monitored annually during sea turtle nesting season (May 1st to October 31st) to detect any project induced changes. During beach nourishment projects turtle monitoring starts earlier March to assure no impacts to sea turtles that may arrive to nest earlier than May 1st.

oto (Courtesy of Martin County) Bulldozers pushing sand pumped on the beach from offshore during beach construction March 27, 2013. 

The 2013 Hutchinson Island beach nourishment placed approximately 613,000 cubic yards of sand at the north end of Martin County coastline. Photo (Courtesy of Martin County) shows beach construction March 27, 2013. 

Before construction, the County built a web application to show the public which beach accesses were closed daily, and which sections of the beach were under construction and closed to the public. Also during 2013 the County monitored daily sea turtle nesting activity between March 1st and October 31st. 

A simplified interactive step by step story of the project is available here: 2013 Hutchinson Island 4 mile Shore Protection Project story map.

Five species of sea turtles swim in Florida's waters; three of them - the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), loggerhead (Caretta caretta)and the green turtle (Chelonia mydas)nest regularly on Martin County's beaches. These sea turtles are either designated as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973

Every day nests are marked and its coordinates recorded with GPS. At the end of 2013 turtle nesting season CMAR staff put together the video below, to show the activity of sea turtles before, during, and after beach nourishment on that 4 mile section of beach. 


2013 Hutchinson Island Beach Sea Turtle Nesting Season (4:45 min)


The video shows the progress of the sand placement on the beach (yellow line) and the beach access (blue squares) and park closures (red stop signs) recorded by that web application during construction. The video also shows the 2013 turtle nesting activity before, during, and after construction of the Hutchinson Island beach nourishment project (March 14 – October 14, 2013). Nests laid just before or during construction are relocated.

How long before sea turtles get back to nest on the beach after beach nourishment ?

The video starts with the first leatherback sea turtle (brown) nest before beach construction started. Nests made before and during construction have to be relocated. As time progresses the videos show the progress of the beach nourishment project (yellow line along the beach), and a few more leatherback turtles “arrive” as construction progresses. 

Watch as the video progresses...
  • Leatherback sea turtles are the first to nest, followed by the loggerheads 
  • Green sea turtles are the last to arrive and the last to leave
  • Number of turtle increasing and decreasing and summer progresses 
  • ​​False crawls  and beach scarps start at the end of May formed throughout the summer 

  • Watch the amount of false crawls  increase as beach scarps form on the beach


    False crawls occur when a female sea turtle attempts to nest but for several reasons returns to the water without laying eggs.  Beach escarpment (scarps) is one of the reasons why sea turtles go back to the ocean without nesting. Steep scarps (higher than 18" can prevent sea turtles from crawling up the beach to lay their eggs. Scarps are usually oriented parallel to the shoreline (NW-SE) and are showed in the video as lines color-coded by height (highest in green, lowest in light pink). Beach scarps started to form at the end of May and continued throughout most of the summer. Picture on the left shows a small scarp on the beach.  

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