PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (AP) — For the first time in 20 years, sea turtles are nesting on Mississippi mainland beaches. Scientists are keeping a close eye on the nests to see if hatchlings emerge.

Since the Institute for Marine Mammal Science first reported a loggerhead turtle nest in June at Pass Christian, scientists have confirmed a second nest there and think a third mound may also be a nest, The Sun Herald reported (http://bit.ly/QoVtPl ).

They also have nested on Deer Island and there are a few nests in beaches on Cat Island.

Globally, the turtles are classified as threatened in some areas and endangered in others.

An institute team excavated a nest at Graveline Bayou in Jackson County because none of the eggs had hatched after 75 days. Experts say that's standard procedure.

"The majority of eggs died early in development," said Andy Coleman, sea turtle biologist for the IMMS.

The other nests are still incubating. It takes 50 to 80 days for loggerheads to hatch.

The nests are the first sighted on Mississippi beaches in 20 years. Coleman called it a hopeful sign that the species is recovering.

It's also possible they came to the mainland because their usual nesting spots were disturbed, he said.

Better protection of the beaches where the turtles nest has helped their numbers increase, but they're still threatened, he said.

"Overall, loggerhead nesting numbers are up for 2012 throughout the U.S. Alabama has observed over 100 nests, their best year yet."

Coleman said attracting attention to the nests is a "double-edged sword. You want to garner people's attention ... but the biggest priority is maintaining a natural setting for the turtles. You don't want a huge crowd gathered around the nest," when they hatch.