Turtle nesting in S.C. continues to impress; New endangered species license plate launched

Image by Flickr user chick_pea_pie A warning sign at a Pawleys Island nest near Myrtle Beach.

As the 2012 sea turtle nesting comes to end, the totals are coming in and some 4,064 sea turtle nests were laid this season on monitored beaches — that's up once again and makes it the third consecutive year of growth, something that South Carolina has not before seen.

In addition to 4,596 nests laid by loggerhead sea turtles, there were seven green sea turtle nests (five on Garden City Beach, one on Kiawah Island, and one on North Island) and one leatherback nest (Kiawah Island).

Here are more details from a release:

Standardized surveys on index loggerhead nesting beaches in S.C. from 1982 - 2012 report high, medium and low years. 2010 and 2011 were medium to high years and the 2012 nesting season was of particular interest because the nest count trend has never had three consecutive years where nesting has shown an increase. Loggerhead nesting in 2012 not only topped the previous two years, but was also the highest year on record since 1982. Historical nest counts from the 1970's indicate we still have a bit to go to reach recovery levels but this may be the beginning.

This year (2012) marks the third year that the DNR Marine Turtle Conservation Program has been participating in a multi-state project along with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the North Carolina Wildlife and Resources Commission and the University of Georgia to answer several basic loggerhead sea turtle nesting questions. We are using DNA genetic fingerprinting (CSI for sea turtles) to identify individual loggerhead nesting females, how many nests they are laying each year, and how long they go in between nesting years. This information will provide a much more accurate census of the actual nesting population. In 2010 and 2011, 1,751 and 1,966 unique females were identified across G.A., N.C., and S.C., respectively. To date, 1,415 unique females have been identified from the 2012 season. You can follow the progress of this study on our genetics web page provided by Seaturtle.org: http://www.seaturtle.org/nestdb/genetics.shtml

331 DNR has also annoucned a new "Endangered Species" license plate:

The Endangered Species license plate features a loggerhead hatchling, our state reptile, to portray the importance of endangered species' conservation in S.C. The design is painted by artist Ellen Fishburne using a photograph of an actual loggerhead hatchling on the beach at the Isle of Palms in S.C. Barbara Bergwerf, a retired professional photographer and DNR sea turtle program volunteer, shot this photo one early morning during a nest survey.

The cost of the license plate is $30 every two years in addition to your normal registration fee. To order the Endangered Species license plate, mail the completed application (Microsoft Word file - http://www.scdmvonline.com/DMVNew/forms/MV-95.doc) and required fees to SC Division of Motor Vehicles, PO Box 1498, Blythewood, SC 29216-0008, visit any DMV office, call (803) 737-4000 or visit www.scdmvonline.com. If you already have an endangered species license plate on your vehicle, you are welcome to maintain your current plate. Any lost or damaged endangered species plates will be replaced with the new design.