Sea turtle nesting season is underway, and in order to practice superior environmental stewardship, Treasure Island reminds beach residents and visitors in beach communities to keep conditions safe for sea turtles to thrive.
Females generally nest from early May through August with turtle eggs typically taking between 50 and 60 days to hatch.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium monitors nearly 26 miles of coastline and reports on sea turtle nesting activity. The staff engages in early morning patrols to locate new nesting sites and late night patrols to check existing nests for hatchlings. They also watch the nests from 10pm to 2am to make sure that hatchlings make it to the water safely. Do not pick up hatchlings heading toward the water, shine lights or use photo equipment with a flash. Hatchlings use starlight and moonlight reflecting off the water to find their way to the ocean, and if they become misled by artificial light, they can become disoriented and die.
In addition to checking the beaches every morning for signs of new nests, aquarium staff mark the nests and rope them off to avoid human disturbance. As an endangered species, loggerhead turtles are protected under federal law and bothering their nests is illegal. To report the disturbance of a sea turtle nest, or report the sightings of turtles or hatchlings lost, stranded or wandering in the street, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Division of Law Enforcement at 1-888-404-3922 or *FWC from a cell phone.
Most of the Pinellas County beach communities have ordinances in place prohibiting lighting that casts glare onto the beach during turtle nesting season, which ends on Oct. 31.
During nesting season, residents and beach visitors should do the following:
- Turn off outside lights, draw drapes and avoid using flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach.
- Remove obstacles such as sand castles or sand pits that may make it too difficult for hatchlings to make their way to the shoreline.
- Keep the beach clean. Eliminate trash items that may entangle baby hatchlings and adult turtles.
- Do not approach or harass adult turtles as they make their way back to sea.
- If residents spot turtle tracks or what might be a nest, and it does not appear to be protected by stakes or ribbon, call the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at (727) 441-1790, ext. 1.
By obeying the law and following some simple guidelines, residents and visitors can greatly improve the chances of sea turtle survival.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium reports that 2016 was a record year for nests and events that impacted them. The area was host to 318 turtle nests with more than 13,000 hatchlings released into the ocean last year. Tropical Storm Colin and Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew damaged and destroyed several nests.