What you didn’t know about sea turtle nesting
Here in Palm Beach County, we are approaching the start of sea turtle nesting, which runs March 1 through Oct. 31, and we couldn’t be more excited for the 2017 season!
Oftentimes, beachgoers and other concerned community members ask Loggerhead Marinelife Center staff members many questions during nesting season. How can I help keep the beach safe for sea turtles? Can I help an injured sea turtle? What sea turtles nest on our local beaches?
These are all good questions, and we’re here to help answer them. After all, last month when our team rescued four hawksbill/hawksbill hybrid hatchlings from Palm Beach, we were all reminded of how critical it is that we protect our beaches every day – not just when nesting season prevails.
Our founder, Eleanor Fletcher, was one of the first people licensed by Florida to conduct sea turtle nesting research. She was curious about why so many hatchlings crawled toward the artificial lights that flooded the beaches rather than out to sea (hint: the answer is somewhere in this post!)
Since Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s founding, things certainly have changed. LMC biologists now monitor 9.5 miles of beach from the northern Palm Beach County line south to John D. MacArthur Beach State Park to study the green, leatherback and loggerhead populations that nest there. And nowadays, more people live in Palm Beach County – especially our coastal communities, we have smart phones and we have more light pollution.
Although we still have our usual handy list of tips and tricks for you to know during nesting season, we’ve come up with a list of a few more unusual facts you may not know much about:
- Go unplugged
It may be tempting, but if you’re on the beach at night during nesting season, you should not turn on or take out your cell phone or camera. The harsh, bright light can disturb a sea turtle’s nesting process, causing her to become disoriented, not lay eggs or not cover and camouflage her nest properly. So, go unplugged and Instagram about your experience later by taking a #seaturtleselfie with one of LMC’s current sea turtle patients.
- DO NOT TOUCH (or approach)
If you do see a nesting female making her way along the beach, avoid making loud noises, and never approach or touch her. It is illegal to touch sea turtles, as they are a federally-protected species in the states. Additionally, you should keep your distance. Even getting too close can result in disrupting the nesting sea turtle (and can get you a hefty fine.) The best way to safely observe a nesting sea turtle is to join us for a Turtle Walk this June or July!
- Dim the lights
You’ve probably heard this before, but do you know what sea turtle friendly lighting means? It can mean turning off lights (indoor and outdoor) and closing curtains after sunset, installing the lowest wattage low-pressure sodium vapor lighting – such as amber or red LEDs – or covering open bulbs to help reduce light pollution. Artificial light can easily confuse hatchlings, which orient themselves toward the brightest light (naturally the moon). There are a few sea turtle-friendly light options from which to choose, so check out Florida Fishing and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s full list.
Other tips to protect our beaches this season include:
- Removing any lounge chairs, umbrellas and other furniture from the beach at night
- Knocking down sandcastles and filling in holes before leaving the beach
- Disposing properly of all trash and cleaning up any debris on the beach
- Not participating in balloon releases (deflated balloons resemble jellyfish, a common prey item for sea turtles)
- Allowing healthy hatchlings to crawl to the ocean on their own
For more information about sea turtle nesting, please visit www.marinelife.org/nesting. If you are a member of the media interested in interviewing LMC biologists about sea turtle nesting season, please contact Hannah Deadman, public relations & communications coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (561) 627-8280 ext. 124.