Look closely, and you can trace the path of the mighty sea turtle mother as she slides across the beach in search of safe nesting grounds.
Her prints reveal her identity: loggerhead, green or leatherback. They take you where a night’s effort took her, which sometimes is back to the ocean after a fruitless trek up the sand.
Otherwise, they lead to her nest, where up to 100 eggs spend two months buried beneath the sand preparing for birth — if they make it that far.
These days, sea turtles are having a tough time sustaining their species. Longline fishing, pollution, a warming climate and development all have had a hand in the turtle’s decline.
As nesting season winds down, sea turtle surveyors across Palm Beach County are reporting mixed results.
Known as the “turtle lady,” Debbie Sobel, of the Sea Turtle Conservation League of Singer Island, is feeling good about her numbers this year, though she would have liked to see more leatherbacks, the most prehistoric and mammoth of the species, weighing up to a ton.
Her numbers were down from last year.
This year, the group tracked 1,020 loggerhead, 222 green and 12 leatherback nests on more than 2 miles of beach from the Ocean Mall in Riviera Beach to John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.
“Of course, we all want to see higher numbers,” she said. “We want every species of sea turtles in the world to survive, but they have so many troubles.”
Their troubles essentially have been manmade. In Florida, loggerheads are the only one of the seven sea turtle species not considered endangered. Worldwide, though, loggerheads make the list.
Longline fishing is the biggest culprit, causing 40,000 deaths each year.