TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Sea turtle nesting season begins May 1 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. 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 and, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a total of 105,185 loggerhead sea turtle nests were found across the state in 2020.

Here’s a breakdown of nests from last year in the Tampa Bay area:

  • Hillsborough: 4.8 km surveyed, 96 loggerhead nests
  • Pinellas: 76.7 km surveyed, 377 loggerhead nests, 3 green nests
  • Manatee: 19 km surveyed, 930 loggerhead nests, 1 green nest
  • Sarasota: 56 km surveyed, 7,041 loggerhead nests, 227 green nests

According to the FWC, 133,493 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 the 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 including Anna Maria Island, Clearwater, Maderia Beach, St. Pete Beach, Sarasota and Venice have adopted sea turtle lighting ordinances. 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 as well. 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.

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