Five different sea turtle species, either threatened or endangered, are found in Florida’s waters and nesting on its beaches. These highly migratory animals depend on coastal waters for foraging, migration and breeding during different life stages. Florida’s beaches provide crucial nesting grounds for globally important subpopulations, including Northwest Atlantic loggerheads. The quality of Florida’s beaches to attract nesting turtles and produce fit hatchlings plays an important role in population trends. From April through October, Sanibel and Captiva shores provide important nesting habitat for loggerheads, greens and, in rare instances, leatherbacks and Kemp’s ridleys. These turtles face numerous threats throughout their lives and are at great risk while on the beach. Give nesting turtles and hatchlings a greater chance of survival by following a few simple tips.
Lights out – Lights from flashlights and beachfront houses can disorient sea turtles on the beaches.
Fill in holes – Sea turtles, especially hatchlings due to their size, can become trapped in holes dug in the sand.
Don’t disturb nesting turtles – Never get too close to, touch, shine lights on or take flash photos of nesting sea turtles.
Remove obstacles from the sand – Sea turtles can’t move in reverse, so it’s important to flatten sandcastles and remove all chairs, tents, gear and toys from the beach at the end of the day.
Properly dispose of trash – Not only does litter attract predators, but sea turtles can ingest or become entangled by discarded trash and fishing line.
Don’t disturb screens – The protective nest screens prevent predators from eating the eggs and allow hatchlings to emerge through the holes without assistance.
Call for help – Report any issues with nests, nesting turtles or hatchlings by calling the Sea Turtle Hotline at 978728-3663 (978-SAVE-ONE).
Nesting sea turtles and hatchlings find their way back to the sea by instinctually traveling away from the dark silhouettes of the dune vegetation and toward the light from the moon and stars reflecting off the water. Artificial lights cause nesting females and hatchlings to become disoriented and crawl in the wrong direction. Most hatchlings that wander inland will die of exhaustion, dehydration, traffic on nearby roads or predation. Artificial lights can also discourage females from nesting, causing them to abandon the process or choose a less optimal nesting site.
Turn out all lights visible from the beach from dusk to dawn.
Turn off all outdoor and deck lighting.
Close blinds and drapes on windows that face the beach or gulf. Unshielded interior lighting, even from just a single residence, is enough to disrupt the normal sea-finding behavior of sea turtles.
Never shine lights on a sea turtle or take flash photography.
If necessary, use only approved amber or red LED bulbs.
Call to report any of the following concerns: Stranded sea turtles or hatchlings (live, injured or dead); Nests that have been tampered with; Eggs that have been dug up; Exposed eggs or nests being washed away; Unmarked nests you believe the sea turtle monitoring teams may have missed (teams begin at sunrise and cover varying length sections of the beach); Daytime hatching; Issues with beachfront lighting, holes dug on the beach, or beach furniture or unused equipment remaining on the beach from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. Courtesy Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. For more tips, visit www.sancaplifesavers.org.
-Island Sun – June 3, 2022 – Vol. 29 No. 49