VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Sea turtle nesting begins May 1 and spans several months and during that time hundreds of baby sea turtles will emerge from the sand and make their trek to the water, but they need your help to survive.
The journey from egg to ocean is long and treacherous for the shell-covered creatures. Aside from dodging predators, they also have to deal with man-made obstacles that can often lead them straight into harm's way.
Between 40,000 to 84,000 nests, each with up to 120 eggs, are laid along the Sunshine State's coast each year, but only an estimated 1,000 to 10,000 of those hatchlings will make it safely to sexual maturity.
That's why Volusia County officials are asking for the public's help in keeping the sea turtles safe this nesting season, which runs through Oct. 31.
Jennifer Winters, Volusia County's sea turtle Habitat Conservation Plan program manager, urges anyone who lives near the water to "let the night provide the light."
“Artificial lighting is a human-made threat we can correct with minimal effort,” Winters said. “Bright lights can prevent females from nesting, and they can confuse hatchlings – leading them away from the ocean and into the streets or storm drains. By simply redirecting lights away from the beach and turning them off when not in use, beachfront residents can help sea turtles survive.”
Aside from lights, officials offered a slew of other tips locals are asked to abide by. Check them out below:
- Do not touch or disturb sea turtles or their nests. It is important that hatchlings make their own way to the ocean.
- Do not disturb the dune system or plants. Use designated beach access points and do not walk on the dunes.
- When driving at the beach, use the designated traffic lanes and parking areas. Beach driving access hours are from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. throughout the season, tide permitting.
- Do not use flash photography or cellphones to light your way at night.
- Use only red LED flashlights; they are less visible to turtles.
- After a day at the beach, flatten sandcastles, fill in holes and take your chairs and equipment with you. This is an easy way you can help lessen obstacles encountered by turtles.
- Dispose of trash and recyclables in proper receptacles. Trash left on the beach can attract predators.
- Do not use fireworks. They are prohibited on the beach at all times and are disruptive to the turtles.
Anyone who sees a sea turtle nesting or hatchlings heading to the ocean is asked to keep a safe distance, remain calm and quiet and not interfere with the process. If a sea turtle appears to be in danger, alert a lifeguard or call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922.
More information about Volusia County's sea turtle program can be found here.