PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Sea turtle nesting season is underway, and nesting sites have been popping up along Florida’s beaches.
Disturbing a nest is a crime, a third-degree felony under Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act, so residents at a condo along Redington Beach are taking unusual measures to get around the sea turtle nest that’s blocking their access to the beach.
The nest, located at the bottom of some stairs, is roped off, preventing residents from opening the gate. They are instead using a sand pile to access the beach.
“It’s all part of nature, and we just have to work around it,” said Barry Peters who lives at the condo.
“I love the sea life and I tease everybody, well yeah but we can’t use our steps and I say it’s only for two months less. They hatch in two months,” said another resident, Louie Ann Stottler.
Stottler said last week, a turtle laid her eggs right in front of her condo’s only beach access point.
“They were here long before us, and it’s their territory so we try to cooperate and keep the lights all down,” she said.
Lindsey Fynn is the sea turtle conservation program manager at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. She says Turtle Patrol monitors 21 miles of beach in Pinellas County during turtle nest season, and so far the team has discovered 50 nests.
“Our team monitors our nest each and every day to make sure that they’re still safe and protected,” said Flynn. “We ask people to give them space. Sea turtle nests incubate for about two months and our hatchlings will emerge from the nest from there.”
Flynn says she primarily sees the loggerhead sea turtle, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act and state laws. Harassing them can lead to imprisonment and fines.
“Unfortunately, we do have issues each year with instances of human vandalism so we always encourage our residents and visitors to call,” said Flynn.
Records show a man was arrested and charged with a felony on Monday on Indian Rocks Beach when he crawled underneath the enclosure of a nest.
“When there’s that rope around there and that pink rope, you stay out that’s their home,” said Stottler.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium is reminding beachgoers to pick up your trash and toys, fill in any holes in the sand and knock down sandcastles.
If you see someone approaching or harassing a turtle or a nest, call authorities immediately.
You can also report all sea turtle sighting to 727-441-1790 ext. 224.