This World Turtle Day, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds the public that as we enjoy our beaches this Memorial Day weekend, everyone can help sea turtles have a successful nesting season by giving them space, removing beach furniture at night, keeping beaches clean and dark, and never disturbing their nests.
Florida’s sandy beaches provide important spring and summer nesting habitat for several species of federally threatened and endangered sea turtles, including loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles, with occasional nesting by federally endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.
Getting too close (50 feet or less) to nesting sea turtles can cause them to leave the beach before they complete nesting. All species of sea turtles and their nests are protected and should not be disturbed — it is illegal to harm, harass or take nesting sea turtles, their eggs and hatchlings.
In addition to giving space to sea turtles and their nests, beachgoers can help with sea turtle nesting success every time they visit the shore:
• Clear the way at the end of the day! Properly dispose of all trash, fill in human-made holes in the sand, and remove all beach toys and furniture from the beach before sunset. Obstacles on the beach can prevent sea turtles from nesting. Trash and other obstacles can also prevent sea turtle hatchlings from reaching the water once they emerge from their nests. Food scraps attract predators, such as raccoons and crows, that can prey on sea turtle hatchlings, as well as shorebird eggs and chicks. Litter on beaches can entangle sea turtles, birds and other wildlife.
• Lights out! Turn off lights or close curtains after dark to ensure nesting turtles are not disturbed or disoriented as they come ashore and hatchlings will not become disoriented when they emerge from their nests. Make sure exterior lighting adjacent to nesting beaches is long, low and shielded. Avoid using flashlights or cell phone lights and taking flash photos after dark on the beach.
For more information about nesting sea turtles and how you can help, visit MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle or see the FWC’s “Be a Beach Hero” brochure. You can also help sea turtles by reporting anyone disturbing a sea turtle or nest, as well as sea turtles that are sick, injured, entangled or dead to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).