5 loggerhead turtles hatch from Pass Christian nest

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - The Gulf of Mexico is home to five new sea turtles. Institute of Marine Mammal Studies Director Moby Solangi told WLOX News five sea turtle eggs hatched this week.

"It's very cool," Solangi said Tuesday night shortly after inspecting the nest.

Though about 70 turtle eggs in the nest were not viable and did not hatch, Solangi said the five births of the threatened loggerhead turtle make for a success story.

"At least we know the animal is coming back and laying the eggs," Solangi said.

The IMMS team inspected the nest on the beach in Pass Christian Tuesday evening and discovered broken shells of five turtle eggs and saw evidence or turtle tracks leading to the sea. Hatchlings are about the size of the palm of a hand at birth. They grow to be about 350 pounds.

The IMMS team has been monitoring and collecting data on the sea turtle nest for about two months. Solangi said it's not unusual for so many eggs in a nest not to hatch. Many factors affect that, including the age of the mother turtle and the environment.

But even the ones that didn't hatch will be evaluated and supply vital information to researchers.

"Basically, when I am opening up the eggs; I am trying to see at which stage of development they rested at," said sea turtle ecologist Andy Coleman.

Not only will this data be used for further research, the remains of those eggs will also benefit next year's nesting season.

"We'll just bury them and let those nutrients become part of the environment, and we'll send the data we find to the federal government as part of our statewide monitoring system."

This is the second year the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies has been monitoring sea turtle nesting along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Mother Nature wasn't as cooperative last year.

"Hurricane Isaac did wash out the one in Pass Christian last year, and this year... This is the only one we've monitored on the mainland," Coleman said.

Sea turtle nesting season in Mississippi runs from May 1 through October 31. Nests are identifiable by a set of parallel tracks left by the female turtle.

If you spot a sea turtle nest, you are urged to call the IMMS stranding hotline at 1-888-SOS-DOLPHIN. And if you encounter a sea turtle while she is laying her eggs, please keep your distance. The scientists said any disturbance could interrupt the nesting process.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.