May featured a "fantastic" start to the sea turtle nesting season on and around Gasparilla Island.
The Coastal Wildlife Club reported the Gasparilla Island nest count of 188 was up 62 percent more than the 73 recorded the same time a year ago. The numbers climbed despite heavy holiday beach activity the last weekend of the month.
"The numbers show nesting has been fantastic," said Norma Jean Zvosec of the Boca Grande CWC. "The Boca Grande beaches were packed with people but no harm to nests was recorded."
Loggerhead nesting is up 62 percent on Gasparilla Island in first month of the season.
The Coastal Wildlife Club covers Boca Grande, Manasota Key and Little Gasparilla Island where nesting is up 46 percent from 590 a year ago to 859 through June 1.
The huge increase is impressive because last year was a strong laying season, too, one of the best in the last 20 years. The 2011 total of 2,528 nests at Manasota, Gasparilla and Little Gasparilla fell 628 nests short of the record 1998 season's 3,156 nests - about 81 percent of the all-time best total.
An emerging concern is false crawls, where a sea turtle emerges from the surf and returns to it without nesting. False crawls are up 29 percent with 930 so far this season compared with 719 in this area at the same time a year ago.
About 3,000 people, mostly volunteers, monitor 800 miles of Florida's nesting beaches, including ore than 140 volunteers covering sandy stretches from South Venice to the Boca Grande Pass. Nesting season runs from May through August. Nests incubate 45 to 60 days.
All sea turtle species are considered threatened or endangered under state and federal laws with green turtles particularly rare.
To volunteer for the CVC, contact Grace Harvey of Boca Grande at (941) 964-5642.