Frothy waves from Hermine’s wake crawled closer and closer inland, pushing toward dunes and over wooden stakes in the sand.
As the sand is packed and hardened over marked sea turtle nests, only time will tell what happens to the eggs underneath.
“When a tropical depression enters the gulf, we always get high tides, so the erosion is going to take out nests,” said Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist with Mote Marine’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research program.
Mote’s turtle monitoring covers a 35-mile range from Longboat Key to Venice. Mazzarella predicts there will be a lot of nests loss due to Hermine but added that this has been a record year, and many nests have already hatched this season.
Hazardous weather makes it too dangerous for daily nest monitoring, so turtle watch groups can’t determine the extent of damage until well after a storm passes.
There’s nothing that biologists or turtle watch volunteers can do to prevent this from happening. Since sea turtles are protected by law, it’s illegal to handle turtle eggs without a permit.
When Tropical Storm Colin hit the Gulf Coast in June and took out 50 nests on Anna Maria Island, Suzi Fox, the executive director of the island’s turtle watch, told the Herald that it’s sad to see nests destroyed, but events like tropical storms and hurricanes are a natural process. If eggs were moved, it would skew nesting data.
As of Aug. 28, a record 431 turtle nests had been counted on Anna Maria, and 562 turtle nests had been counted on the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key as of Aug. 15.
It’s possible that eggs can survive being washed over for a few hours, but it will take until the end of the season in October to tell how many nests actually washed out and what survived.
“Colin was pretty bad,” Mazzarella said. “We just have to see what happens after the storm goes through.”