FLORIDA (CBSMiami) — Just a few years ago, Florida’s beloved loggerhead sea turtles were in a population slump.

CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reports that this year, however, was the fifth consecutive with population increases. Loggerhead sea turtles built a near-record number of nests on Florida’s beaches, state wildlife researchers reported Friday.

Surveys counted 58,172 nests in 2012 along 250 miles of beaches, just below an all-time high of 59,918 recorded 14 years ago, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The count bottomed out at 28,974 in 2007 before rising for five straight years.

“We’re pleased to see this increase, but we recognize that loggerheads, and other sea turtle species, still face many challenges,” said Blair Witherington, an FWC research scientist.

Florida is home to about 90 percent of all loggerhead nests in the United States, with most of them along the east coast from Miami Beach to Daytona Beach. Loggerheads, which are federally listed as an endangered species, are the most common turtles to nest along Florida’s coast.

Green turtles and leatherbacks, also federally endangered species, have been nesting in generally increasing numbers as well, the FWC reported.

Since tracking began in 1989, green turtle nesting in Florida has increased about tenfold to 6,054 this year, slightly down from last years. Surveyors counted 515 leatherback nests, up from 45 in 1989.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)


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