ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- As the end of the 2015 sea turtle nesting season quickly approaches Oct. 31, advocates have begun to reflect on how they fared this year on Anna Maria Island.
Suzi Fox, executive director of the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, said this year's season yielded 356 nests, 441 false crawls and 12,570 hatchlings.
"It is the sixth-highest year since we've started, since our data has been collected," Fox said. "That speaks volumes."
This year, AMITW announced a record 51 sea turtles nests had been laid in May on the 7-mile barrier island compared with just 11 nests at the same time in 2014.
Not all went smoothly this season. Over the past few months, Fox said she noticed one trend emerge.
"I'm seeing much higher false crawls toward the center of the island and the number of nests should balance
the number of false crawls. They should be equal," she said. "When you see a spike, that's not normal. That's concerning."
By center of the island, Fox said she meant from Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach, heading south to Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.
"Next year, what we're probably going to be doing is stepping up our outreach -- help people understand best procedures around nesting turtles," Fox said.
Weather adversely affected baby turtles, too.
"We had a considerable amount of storms this year, which caused misdirections," said Holmes Beach Police Chief William Tokajer, adding it also destroyed some sea turtle nests. "We did set up a turtle-receiving station at the police station, which worked really well."
Tokajer said people would drop by with baby turtles, and sometimes nests, and leave them at the station, which served as a safe haven until AMITW officials could pick them up. The station, which has a large cooler with water and sand inside, is the first of its kind for the agency.
"The Turtle Watch people are amazing. They spend a lot of time out there making sure that the turtles are protected," Tokajer said. "It's just another community outreach that we did."
Maureen McCormick, president of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, helped organize volunteers over a small section in the city of Anna Maria the past six years.
"We're the only island that has bayside nesting. I've noticed in general more sand that's accruing on the bay side. ... We see a lot more nests," McCormick said, adding the section she oversees counted 19 nests this season. "The other downside of what we're seeing is that there is a lot of water that seems to be rising. ... The rain this year was a downer for us."
Lynn Brennan, 68, of Anna Maria, is a new volunteer in her first sea turtle nesting season.
"You start walking the beach looking for turtle tracks and they teach you what to look for. If you really don't know, you look at it and you go: 'Is this really a turtle track? Oh, it really is one!'" Brennan said. "It's really exactly how they tell you. I think that's one of the most exciting things, to know that you actually found one."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.