March 1 is the official start of the sea turtle nesting season. In addition to reducing coastal light pollution, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds people not to take cell phone flash photos of sea turtles on the beach at night, because that can interfere with nesting.
“It’s great that people are enjoying Florida’s beaches and are enthusiastic about our sea turtles,” said Dr. Robbin Trindell, who leads the FWC’s sea turtle management program. “However, most visitors to the beach don’t realize that any light on the beach at night poses a threat to these threatened and endangered animals. A nesting female may become frightened or disoriented by lights or a flash photo and return to the ocean without laying eggs. Lights on the beach at night also could interfere with adult or hatchling sea turtles trying to find the ocean after nesting or hatching.”
From now through the end of October, three different species of sea turtle will land on Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coast beaches to lay their eggs.
MARCH - JULY: Leatherback sea turtles begin to come ashore from March through July to lay their eggs. Florida is the only state in the continental U.S. where leatherback sea turtles regularly nest. With the exception of a few nests on the west coast, leatherbacks nest almost exclusively on the east coast of Florida. In fact, about 50 percent of leatherback nesting occurs in Palm Beach County.
APRIL - SEPTEMBER: Loggerhead sea turtles typically nest in Florida from April through September. In the United States, 90 percent of all loggerhead nesting occurs in Florida. The majority of this nesting takes place on the east coast of Florida. In fact, in Brevard County there were 23,457 loggerhead nests in 2014.
JUNE - SEPTEMBER: Green sea turtle nesting in Florida occurs from June through late September with the highest concentration of nests along Florida's east coast - but green turtle nests have been found in every coastal county of the Sunshine State.
FWC asks that residents and visitors remember these turtle-friendly practices:
Remain at a distance from nesting sea turtles and hatchlings.
Remove chairs, canopies, boats and other items from the beach at night, because they block the movement of turtles and hatchlings.
Turn off or shield lights along the beach, in order to prevent nesting females or hatchlings from getting confused and going toward lights on land instead of the salt water, where they belong.
Avoid using lights on the beach at night. If you must have light, use a red LED flashlight, adjust cell phone screens to dark mode and don’t take flash photos.
Fill in holes in the sand at the end of the day, so nesting sea turtles and hatchlings don’t fall in and get stuck there at night.
Correctly dispose of fishing line, so it won’t entangle sea turtles and other animals.
Remember it is illegal to harm, harass or take sea turtles, their eggs and hatchlings, including getting too close to a nesting female.
Report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 1-888-404-3922 (FWCC).
Photo credit: FWC