David Friedman  /  MSNBC.com file
Florida's recent hurricanes hit loggerhead sea turtles particularly hard. The species has been in decline, even with rehab efforts like this one, where a juvenile loggerhead was in a holding tank until it could be released to the sea.
updated 9/30/2004 9:36:23 AM ET 2004-09-30T13:36:23

Hurricane Jeanne destroyed many of the sea turtle nests on Florida’s central Atlantic beaches that had survived Charley and Frances, officials said.

Canaveral National Seashore — which is home to five species of sea turtles, all of them listed as threatened or endangered — lost more than 1,000 sea turtle nests during Frances and most of the remaining 300 to 400 during Jeanne, which hit last weekend, said John Steiner, the park’s resource management specialist.

Frances, which struck Sept. 5, may have destroyed 40 percent to 60 percent of the loggerhead and green sea turtle nests made in 2004, a year that had already seen a sharp decline in turtle nesting, biologists estimated.

Only a few nests remain in Volusia and Flagler counties, said Beth Libert of the Volusia-Flagler Turtle Patrol.

Steiner said some of this year’s turtles hatched before the hurricanes, but most of those still in the egg when Jeanne hit were lost. The park didn’t move any eggs for safekeeping because that can disrupt their normal development, he said.

Because it takes two decades for a sea turtle to reach sexual maturity, it might be years before the impact of this nesting season is seen in the sea turtle population, said Jennifer Winters, turtle coordinator of Volusia County.

Many of Florida’s beaches have taken on a different look after this year’s parade of hurricanes finished shifting, eroding or completely relocating tons of sand.

Thousands of aerial photographs are being examined to determine the best response for each beach eroded by this year’s hurricanes, said Paden Woodruff, environmental administrator for the state Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems.

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