Baby Turtle Time
It’s that time of year again to think about the sea turtles and their nesting habits. Every year between March 1st and October 31st Sea Turtle Nesting season is in full swing here in Palm Beach County along all of our 41 miles of beaches. During this time, you will find many sea turtles and their nests checkered along the beachfront. At least every other year, I like to write about the plight of the sea turtles and the help that is given to them in the county. There are specific rules and regulations set forth to help these large sea creatures reproduce that influence our beach and driving habits during this annual time period. So the next time you’re on the beach and see those nets protecting the sea turtles nests, think of the major effort that is made to ensure their survival every year. We play an important role in making sure these gentle creatures survive and prosper. Please, read this article and see what you can do to help.
With help from Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach and Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, we will try to help you understand all that it takes to help the sea turtle, their nests and their safe return to the ocean here in Palm Beach County. Loggerhead Marinelife Center itself maintains and patrols 9.5 miles of beach along the Tequesta, Jupiter and Juno Beach coastline. The center has established this helpful “DO” and “DON’T” List for the health of these turtles, their nests and their newborn hatchlings.
- Throw away all foreign objects and debris left behind on the beach in a beach trashcan
- Fill in holes in the sand which may obstruct a sea turtle’s path to and from the ocean
- Observe a nesting sea turtle from a distance and from behind
- Look out for disoriented hatchlings on trails and roads near the beach
- Keep your lights out near the beach or install sea turtle-friendly lighting
- Bring weak or confused hatchlings to a local sea turtle habitat (such as Loggerhead Marinelife Center or Gumbo Limbo Nature Center), but only when necessary
- Don’t interact with or disrupt a nesting sea turtle
- Don’t use lighting on the beach at night including flash photography
- Don’t touch hatchlings on their way to the ocean
- Don’t take any action for empty egg shells, or exposed, un-hatched eggs
- Don’t harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings
- Don’t use shovels or picks to dig on the beach during nesting season
All sea turtle professionals stress the “Lights Out” campaign where beachgoers or residents near the beach who require light maintain a “shield” so that the light will not shine onto the beach directly at night. Any light will draw a sea turtle like the sun on a horizon line away from the ocean and the main goal is to get the hatchlings into the ocean with no interruption at all. Never use flash photography around the turtles or their nests as this may confuse or disorient them as well. And by no means ever approach or pick up a sea turtle or their hatchlings. Should you encounter a weak, confused or lost (such as on the highway or away from the actual beach) hatchling, please call or bring it by Loggerhead Marinelife Center or Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Loggerhead Marinelife Center has a unique “Drop-Off Box” for hatchlings at their front entrance should you need to use it.
Now remember Palm Beach County has a beach that extends from the top of the county in Jupiter to the bottom of the county in Boca Raton, so these “DO’s” and “DON’T’s” should pertain to all beach areas marked with Turtle Nesting signs. And, National Law dictates it is illegal to harm or harass a sea turtle, a sea turtle nest or a sea turtle hatchling. So, please, watch out for these mild giants and their little offspring when you go to the beach.
Places exist in our area where you can learn about these wonderful sea creatures: Loggerhead Marinelife Center (Juno Beach), Gumbo Limbo Nature Center (Boca Raton) and Sandoway House (Delray Beach).