WASSAW ISLAND, Ga. (WSAV) — Sea turtle nesting season began this month and experts say that this year is expected to be a big one for Coastal Georgia’s turtle population.

“We are expecting a really big nesting season,” said Dr. Joseph Pfaller, a researcher with the Caretta Research Project. “Nesting started in Georgia at the very beginning of the month, which was quite early.”

Early, but not surprising.

“2019 was a really big year, and the turtle’s nest about every three years, so those 2019 turtles are probably nesting this year,” Pfaller said.

And it isn’t just this year, when News 3 spoke with Pfaller in October at the end of the 2021 season, he said there were 316 turtle nests — only the third time Wassaw Island recorded more than 300 nests.

“There’s been a lot of science, we didn’t know a lot about turtles when we first started studying them in the 70s and now we know a lot more about the populations and how they’re responding to threats,” Pfaller said.

He said science and conservation efforts are contributing to the growing sea turtle populations now being seen.

“Back when we started doing work here, one of the main things we did was to protect the nests and generate more hatchlings.”

But conservationists say that as sea turtle population increases, so have many of the things that threaten them, like trash pollution, light pollution and disturbances to their natural environment.

“Turtles are very sensitive to light so if you’re taking a night stroll on the beach, don’t use any white flashlights you want to use red,” Pfaller said.

“Putting your lights off or low once the sun goes down is great, if you have blinds, turn the blinds so it’s blocking the light so that we have less light pollution on the beach,” Pfaller suggested to those who live or are staying on the beach.

And if visiting the beach you’re asked to leave it how you found it. That means picking up your trash and filling any holes you dig.

“If the hole is big enough the adults can get stuck and the hatchlings can get stuck in pretty much any little depression,” Pfaller said.

The Caretta Research Project has been working to monitor, protect and observe Georgia’s sea turtle populations since 1973. They are based out of Savannah and all of their research takes place on the Wassaw Island National Wildlife Refuge.