By CB Online Staff
Puerto Rico is posting record numbers of leatherback turtle nests along the island’s coastline this year as the government steps up efforts to protect the endangered species.More than 1,700 nests of the world’s largest turtle species have been identified so far this year (just halfway through the season), putting Puerto Rico well ahead of last year’s 1,386 nests, the largest amount in recent history.
While the undeveloped stretch of coastline between Toa Baja and Dorado has seen an increase in nests amid tougher protection efforts, beaches around the offshore island towns of Culebra and Vieques are home to fewer nests this year, according to the Department of Natural & Environmental Resources.
The first leatherback nest of the season was pinpointed in the heart of the Isla Verde tourism zone at the edge of the capital city San Juan in February. Hundreds of additional nests have been located along the sandy strands within close range of the metro area, including some 300 in the Dorado area.
New conservation efforts, including cordoning off nests, and more volunteers monitoring beaches, are helping shore up the numbers of the federally endangered species in Puerto Rico. There were 1,369 nests spotted in 2011 and 1,359 in 2012. The nearly 1,390 nests in 2013 represented some 68,000 baby turtles, but only one out 1,000 leatherback turtles survive to become an adult.
Natural resources officials have noted that that turtles are favoring new nesting sites instead of traditional locations such as Culebra and the northeast coast, which became a protected area last year.
Puerto Rico has the highest number of leatherback turtles in the U.S. and is second in the Caribbean after Trinidad and Tobago.
The turtles coming as far away as Canada and northern Europe to nest. They can weigh up to 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) and can measure up to 7 feet (2 meters) long. An estimated 26,000 to 43,000 female turtles nest annually across the world, down from some 115,000 in 1980.