Researchers from Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) have reported an increase in the number of man-made holes that are being left on local beaches. During a morning survey on Sunday morning, LMC researchers saved over twenty five sea turtle hatchlings from a man-made hole in the sand. Once the turtles were successfully rescued from the hole, researchers assisted them into the ocean, so that the hatchlings could begin their journey. The next day, LMC staff came across a 5×7 foot deep hole, with sheer sides. A loggerhead sea turtle left tracks within a few feet of the hole, and a second loggerhead nested down the slope from it.
“During this time of year, when people and sea turtles are sharing the beaches, it is crucial that we do everything that we can to protect these threatened and endangered species,” said Sarah Hirsch, LMC Data Manager. Sea turtle hatchlings face a difficult journey to adulthood, with many natural and human-based threats standing in their way. On average, only 1 in 5,000 hatchlings actually make it to adulthood. “This is one easy way for everyone to make a difference,” she added.
Sea turtle nesting seasons runs from March 1 to October 31 in Palm Beach County. Beachgoers and visitors can help protect sea turtles and prevent accidents by filling in holes and collapsing sand castles on the beach. As noted above, these holes pose a risk to nesting sea turtles, as well as hatchlings. Additionally, digging deep holes on the beach during sea turtle nesting season can possibly expose a buried nest that has not been marked with stakes. For logistical reasons, only 10% of sea turtle nests are marked with stakes, but all nesting activity data is recorded and analyzed. While enjoying a day at the beach, it is always best to dig below the tide line, as a nest can be as shallow as 12 inches below the surface.
Filling in holes and sandcastles is vital for local sea turtles’ safety. Juno Beach is one of the most densely populated beaches in the world for nesting loggerhead sea turtles. To date, LMC research staff has recorded 8,744 loggerhead nests, 415 green nests, and 265 leatherback nests on the 9.5 miles of beach that the center monitors. While sea turtle are beautiful, captivating creatures, it is illegal to harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings. Sea turtles are protected by the US Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida Statute Chapter 370. You can familiarize yourself with nesting season do’s and don’ts and become an ambassador for these important rules.
- Throw away foreign objects and debris left behind on the beach
- Fill in holes in the sand which may obstruct a sea turtle’s path to and from the ocean
- Observe a nesting sea turtle from a distance from behind
- Look out for disoriented hatchlings on trails and roads near the beach
- Keep your Lights Out near the beach or install sea turtle-friendly lighting
- Bring weak or confused hatchlings to LMC at 14200 US Highway One, Juno Beach, FL 33408
- Don’t interact with or disrupt a nesting sea turtle
- Don’t use lighting on the beach at night including flash photography
- Don’t touch hatchlings on their way to the ocean
- Don’t take any action for empty egg shells, or exposed, un-hatched eggs
- Don’t harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings
- Don’t use shovels to dig on the beach during nesting season