TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Sea turtle nesting season has begun and 8 is On Your Side with information and tips on how to keep these animals safe this year.
Five types of sea turtles nest from May 1 to Oct. 31 in Florida and all are protected by state statutes.
However, turtle nests are already being spotted on Florida beaches. The Sarasota area’s first nest was discovered on Monday.
Loggerhead, green, leatherback, Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbill sea turtles all reside in our state.
The loggerhead sea turtle is the most common on Tampa Bay area beaches.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a total of 9,550 loggerhead sea turtle nests were observed across 162.1 kilometers of beach in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties in 2019.
Almost 500 green sea turtle nests were observed in Sarasota County last year, which also saw four leatherback turtle nests.
Here is the county breakdown:
- Hillsborough – 4.8 km surveyed, 152 loggerhead nests
- Pinellas – 79.6 km surveyed, 667 loggerhead nests
- Manatee – 21.7 km surveyed, 1,158 loggerhead nests, 17 green nests
- Sarasota – 56.0 km surveyed, 7,573 loggerhead nests, 484 green nests, 4 leatherback nests
According to FWC, 160,776 sea turtles nests of all species were observed across the state.
If you encounter any kind of sea turtle on a beach, it’s important to know not to approach them.
According to FWC, any distractions may frighten a nesting mother, causing her to return to the ocean before finishing her nest.
Lights also cause a major disruption to the nesting process.
Throughout sea turtle nesting and hatchling months, beachgoers are asked by FWC to not use flashlights, flash photography or video equipment.
For those who live along the beach, FWC says you should turn off all unnecessary lighting, such as runner lights or uplighting of vegetation, in areas that are visible from the beach.
Numerous Tampa Bay municipalities have adopted sea turtle lighting ordinances, such as Anna Maria Island, Clearwater, Maderia Beach, St. Pete Beach, Sarasota, Venice and many more. Click here to learn more about sea turtle lighting ordinances in your location.
Synergy Lightning Supply, LaMar Lighting, Encapsulite and Volt Lightning are a few vendors who offer FWC-approved turtle lighting.
The recent move across the country against single-use plastics affects sea turtles. Things like plastic straws, as seen in a viral video being removed from a turtle’s nose, affect marine life. Turtles will also confuse things like plastic grocery bags or deflated balloons for food like jellyfish.
Conservationists also urge beachgoers to fill in holes and knock down sandcastles as they leave the beach to aid in mother turtles’ and hatchlings’ journeys back to the ocean. All beach furniture should be removed nightly, as well, as they create obstacles for turtle mothers and the animals can become entangled in things like beach chairs.
If you come across a stranded or dead turtle, a hatchling that is wandering in any direction other than the water, or if you see someone disturbing a nest or turtle, call FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement at 1-888-404-FWCC or *FWC.