Sea turtle nesting has begun in Florida and will continue through the end of October. On May 8, a loggerhead sea turtle nest was discovered at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve beach. The nest was spotted by the reserve’s sea turtle patrol, a volunteer-based effort for monitoring and evaluating sea turtle nests.
In April, these volunteers began monitoring and evaluating this season’s nests on the reserve’s beach, seven days a week.
Florida’s shallow bays and estuaries provide important habitats for threatened and endangered sea turtles. The Sunshine State accounts for 90 percent of sea turtle nests in the continental United States and five of the world’s seven beach-nesting species of sea turtles, including the loggerhead, green turtle, leatherback, hawksbill and the rarest and most endangered sea turtle – the Kemp’s ridley.
“Sea turtles are part of Florida’s unique and dynamic natural environment,” said Kevin Claridge, director of DEP’s Florida Coastal Office. “They are a vibrant part of what makes this state so special. We know people love turtles and every beach-goer can help increase their survival rate during nesting and hatching season.”
Residents are most likely to encounter the loggerhead sea turtle, named for its prominently featured block-like head. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report that the contiguous beaches from Brevard to Palm Beach counties are the most important loggerhead nesting sites in the Western Hemisphere.
These beaches typically see 15,000 nesting loggerheads in a year. Overall, Florida can expect 40,000 to 60,000 sea turtle nests by season’s end.
Adult female sea turtles can come from as far as the West Coast of Africa to breed and nest on Florida beaches. A typical female may lay 85-120 ping-pong sized eggs in one sitting and repeat this process up to eight times in one nesting season. Once deposited, incubation lasts for approximately two months.
To minimize disturbance to nesting sea turtles, residents and visitors are advised to heed the following tips:
- Use sea turtle friendly lighting. Use low-power and low-frequency lighting angled downward to the ground. Residents and establishments close to the beach should pay special attention to cover fixtures as much as possible and keep them off when not needed;
- Refrain from fire and fireworks;
- Keep the beach clear. Do not litter or leave behind beach equipment. Demolish sandcastles and fill in holes. Consider cleaning up litter spotted around you;
- Respect zones around nests and on the dunes. Keep back to avoid accidentally stepping on eggs;
- DO NOT disturb females while they nest. Feel free to observe from a safe distance without making excessive noise;
- Report sightings to 1-800-404-FWCC. Workers and volunteers can mark off the area to help prevent inadvertent damage; and
- If you spot a stranded or trapped female turtle call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-800-404-FWCC.