As more people around the world stay inside, more animals are able to thrive in places that are typically crowded by humans. In the southeastern U.S., sea turtles are enjoying a peaceful nesting season without pesky sunbathers, fishermen or boats.

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“It’s going to be a very good year for our leatherbacks,” Sarah Hirsch, senior manager of research and data at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, told WPEC. “We’re excited to see our turtles thrive in this environment. Our world has changed, but these turtles have been doing this for millions of years and it’s just reassuring and gives us hope that the world is still going on.” Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s researchers have located 69 nests on the 9.5 miles of beach they study, which is significantly more than normal.

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All seven types of sea turtles are endangered or vulnerable. The odds are stacked against hatchlings; only one in 1,000 live to become adults. While hatchlings elude natural predators, such as dogs, seabirds, raccoons, ghost crabs and fish, turtles of all ages face many threats from humans. These include microplastics, fishing gear, coastal development, boat strikes, global warming and the illegal trade in eggs, meat and shells.

David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, said thousands of turtles are currently migrating to nesting beaches in the southeastern U.S. and that “all of the potential positive impacts relate to changes in human behavior.” With fewer boats on the water, the number of boat strikes on turtles and other marine animals will also drop. “All of the reduced human presence on the beach also means that there will be less garbage and other plastics entering the marine environment,” Godfrey said. A 2016 University of Florida study concluded that removing trash and debris from beaches can increase the number of turtle nests by 200%.

In 2019, Florida reported more than 395,700 sea turtle nests during hatching season. Because many beaches preferred by turtles are also prized by tourists, researchers will watch with concern as parts of Florida begin to open their beaches to humans again.

Via CBS News

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