With Tourists Gone, Record Number of Baby Turtles Hatch

In Mexican community, locals released 2,250-plus hatchlings into the sea; usually it's less than 1,000
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2020 12:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – The plight of the sea turtle in Mexico is so perilous that the country banned capturing and killing them 30 years ago. From late spring to early fall, one particularly vulnerable species lays its eggs on beaches throughout the nation, with nesting often disrupted by fishermen and tourists. This year, however, a small indigenous fishing village in the Mexican state of Sonora saw record numbers of eggs hatching, thanks to what locals say is likely the result of reduced human activity due to the coronavirus pandemic. The BBC reports that the Seri community located in El Desemboque typically releases about 500 to 1,000 olive ridley sea turtles into the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez. This year, however, residents released more than 2,250 of the creatures into the ocean, a record number.

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"This year has been one of the hardest for our community," Mayra Estrella Astorga, the leader of a local conservation group, tells Arizona Public Media, citing the health and economic fallout from COVID-19. "That's why we are so happy that ... this miracle of nature happened." Meanwhile, in the US, a similar phenomenon appears to have taken place in Florida. National Geographic reports that as beaches closed, nesting success rates for sea turtles jumped. "During the closures, loggerheads successfully nested 61% of the time," says a researcher for Juno Beach's Loggerhead Marinelife Center. "When the beaches reopened, that number dropped to 46%." Other scientists, however, say it's not clear how much effect the pandemic had, as other factors, such as the quality of food at foraging spots, also could have played a role. (Read more sea turtles stories.)

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