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Successful sea turtle nesting on Myrtle Beach beaches down year over year

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Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling heads to the water on the Isle of Palms.

A loggerhead hatchling who came out of Nest #35 which was laid near 7th Avenue on the Isle of Palms. Provided

MYRLE BEACH — It’s no secret 2020 has been a rough year for humans, but sea turtles in the Myrtle Beach area also found fewer successes than the previous year.

Eleven sea turtles successfully nested this year, down 45 percent from 2019 where there were 26 nestings, according to a post on the city of Myrtle Beach’s Facebook page. 

All of the nestings this year were loggerhead turtles. Unlike in 2019, no rare green sea turtles nested in Myrtle Beach.

A key reason for this downturn can be attributed to storm surge from Hurricane Isaias that hit north of Myrtle Beach in early August.

In addition, seven turtles came ashore this year but decided against nesting in Myrtle Beach. These “false crawls” were also down considerably from 2019 when there were 24 on record.

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Loggerheads are the state reptile of South Carolina and can reach up to 4 feet in size, while weighing upwards of 300 pounds, according to the SC Department of Natural Resources website. 

Myrtle Beach State Park Ranger Ann Wilson said a turtle must be 25 years old to nest.

The average clutch size for a loggerhead is 120 eggs. The turtles are protected to help reverse their dwindling numbers and it is illegal to tamper with a nest during the egg laying season that runs from May to August. The eggs incubate for 50 to 60 days, according to SCDNR. 

One turtle egg is taken from known nests for research purposes at the University of Georgia to learn more about the mother’s habits and the genetic history of the turtle. This program is a joint effort between Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina to better understand how the overall loggerhead population is doing over time — acting as a yearly census for sea turtles. 

Through this research, for example, Wilson said one turtle laid a nest on local shores in 2016 and decided to come back to Myrtle Beach this year laying three nests. 

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