Help NESTING SEA TURTLES, Keep Beaches Dark and Free of Obstacles at Night

  • Bright Beachfront Lighting Can MISDIRECT Nesting Sea Turtles -Turn it Off
  • Loggerhead, Leatherback and Green SEA TURTLES are Nesting Right Now
  • Report Sick, Injured or Entangled Sea Turtles to FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline, 1-888-404-FWCC (3922)
Nesting loggerhead sea turtle. Photo by Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Keeping beaches dark at night and free of obstacles will help sea turtles during their nesting season, which begins in Florida on March 1 and lasts through the end of October.

Bright artificial lighting can misdirect and disturb nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings, so beachgoers should avoid using flashlights or cellphones at night. Turning out lights or closing curtains and shades in buildings along the beach after dark will ensure nesting turtles are not disturbed as they come ashore and hatchlings will not become disoriented when they emerge from their nests. Clearing away boats and beach furniture at the end of the day and filling in holes in the sand are also important because turtles can become trapped in furniture and get trapped in holes on the beach.

Florida’s beachfront residents and visitors taking these actions will help conserve the loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles that nest on the state’s coastlines.

“Keeping Florida’s beaches dark and uncluttered at night can help protect sea turtles that return to nest on our beaches,” said Dr. Robbin Trindell, who heads the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) sea turtle management program. “Many agency partners, such as nature centers, marine turtle permit holders and local governments, contribute greatly to sea turtle conservation. But caring beachgoers can also make a significant difference in helping nesting and hatchling sea turtles survive.”

Exactly when sea turtle nesting season starts depends on where you are in Florida. While it begins in March on the Atlantic coast from Brevard through Broward counties, it starts later in the spring, in late April or May, along the northeast Atlantic, the Keys and Gulf coasts.

Wherever you are, other ways to help sea turtles include properly disposing of fishing line to avoid entanglements, and reporting those that are sick, injured, entangled or dead to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone.

Purchasing a “Helping Sea Turtles Survive”  Florida license plate at Buyaplate.com  contributes to sea turtle research, rescue and conservation efforts. People also can donate $5 and receive an FWC sea turtle decal.

Go to MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle for more information on Florida’s sea turtles, then click on “Research,” then “Nesting” for more data on sea turtle nesting.

Photos are available on the FWC’s Flickr site: http://bit.ly/2bwCAj5.  Sea turtle nesting video B-roll available on FWC’s Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/257783160 

‘Hands off!’ Is Best for Sea Turtle Hatchlings

  • Infant Turtles Face Many Obstacles
  • Let Nature Take Its Course
Sea turtles are cute and look like they may need help from people at times, but Florida Officials say it is best to leave them alone to help them as a species. Photo Credit: Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission

Sea turtle hatchlings are digging out of their nests and clambering toward the ocean in September and October, the last months of Florida’s sea turtle nesting season. Just remember, “Hands off!” is the best policy for beachgoers encountering sea turtle hatchings.

Well-meaning efforts to rescue a sea turtle hatchling by helping it leave a nest or picking it up and placing it in the ocean are not good ideas, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists.

Worse yet, are instances where hatchlings are being handled by people who think it’s OK to get that close, often because they want to take a photo.

“Some Florida beachgoers are unaware that sea turtle hatchings should be watched from a distance and left undisturbed,” said Dr. Robbin Trindell, who leads the FWC’s sea turtle management program. “Even well-meaning attempts to rescue sea turtle hatchlings can do more harm than good. And digging into a sea turtle nest, entering a posted area, or picking up a sea turtle hatchling to take a photo also are against the law.”

Hatchlings must overcome many obstacles to survive. Digging out of their nests may take a few days. Once out, they are vulnerable to predators. And any misdirection on their path to the sea – from artificial lighting to items left on the beach, holes in the sand or people approaching or handling them – may leave them exhausted, lost or dehydrated on the beach in the morning sun.

“So please remember to keep your hands off sea turtle hatchlings and tell others to do the same,” Trindell said. “The best way to help hatchings is to turn off any artificial lighting on the beach at night or at least keep it shielded. If you see hatchlings, watch from a distance and never shoot flash photos.”

Beautiful adult Sea Turtles lay their eggs along the sandy dunes of the Florida coastline in many areas, please leave them alone to help them best. Photo Credit: Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission

Bright lights on houses, motels, condominiums and businesses along the beach can disorient nesting adult females, but are particularly harmful to turtle hatchlings. The hatchlings will head for the bright lights, thinking they are the sparkling sea. They can end up walking landward and are more likely to become prey for animals like coyotes.

People are asked to call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC or #FWC on a cellphone, to report hatchlings that are stranded, wandering in a road or parking lot, heading away from the water or are dead.

For more on sea turtle nesting and hatchlings, go to MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle.