May is the beginning of sea turtle nesting season on many of Florida’s sandy beaches. Many of these beaches are on the gulf including northwest Florida, to the state’s northeast Atlantic coast and from Miami-Dade County south to the Keys.
Florida is a critically important destination for nesting sea turtles, with nearly 97,000 loggerhead turtle nests counted statewide during the 2017 nesting season. Other important species that are commonly found in Florida are leatherbacks and green sea turtles.
“People visiting Florida should be aware that beaches in Naples provide important nesting habitat for both sea turtles and shorebirds,” said Robbin Trindell, head of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission sea turtle management program.
FWC Commission urges beachfront property owners and beach visitors to help nesting turtles and hatchlings by turning off or shielding lights that are visible from the beach at night.
“People’s efforts to keep our beaches as dark as possible at night, without affecting human safety, can make a tremendous difference for nesting sea turtles,” Trindell said. “Female sea turtles and their hatchlings can be disturbed or confused by artificial light, whether it comes from a house, a flashlight or a cellphone camera.”
The FWC reminds beach goers to stay back and give sea turtles space if you see one on the beach at night because it may leave the beach without nesting if disturbed. Any interference or disturbance by people, such as getting too close or taking flash photos, increases the chances the hatchlings will get confused, go in the wrong direction and not reach the ocean quickly.
Interfering with nesting sea turtles confuses them and makes them vulnerable to dehydration, exhaustion and predators. As with all wildlife, watching from a distance is best. It’s also against the law.
Sea turtles are a protected species, this means interfering with a turtle, its nest, or its hatchlings, can result in criminal penalties. Upon seeing a sea turtle in distress, instead of getting directly involved, Trindell says that beachgoers should instead contact FWC by calling (888) 404-3922, or by calling *FWC or #FWC.
“Visitors should respect the posted areas by staying clear of them and not hang things on the posts. They should clear the way at the end of the day to make sure that nesting females have a safe path onto and off the beach at night, and hatchlings can make it to the water safely,” Trindell said.
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