As of December 3, our friends at Sebastian Inlet State Park are reporting the following sea turtle nesting numbers:
Loggerhead – 1,198
Green – 276
Leatherback – 11
Kemps – 1
Total – 1486
Did you know that Sebastian Inlet sits between two segments of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Reserve that has the highest nesting densities of Loggerhead and Green sea turtles in the Western Hemisphere? Archie Carr was established by Congress in 1989 and covers 20.5 miles of beaches in Brevard and Indian River counties. The Indian River Lagoon also provides critical foraging habitat for endangered Green sea turtles and the nearshore hardbottom reef provides rest and refuge for nesting females.
Here's how to protect eggs during Florida's sea turtle nesting season
The official sea turtle nesting season in Indian River County occurs between March 1 and October 31. During this period, loggerhead, green, and leatherback sea turtles emerge from the ocean and search for a suitable nest location. Once found, the female turtle digs a hole, deposits 100 to 150 eggs, then covers the nest with sand. The eggs incubate for about 65 days and then the hatchling sea turtles break out and scamper toward the waves. It’s a brutal and unforgiving world for the hatchlings: Only about one of every 1,000 hatchlings will reach adulthood. You help improve the hatchlings’ odds by following this advice:
If you are lucky enough to see a sea turtle, refrain from using flash photography or touching the animal. Sea turtles scare easily. Keep a safe distance of 10 feet and remain behind the animal or else she may spook and return to the ocean.
Touching or handling protected species (including sea turtles and their eggs) without a permit is against the law. If you observe sick or injured animals, or are aware of people harassing sea turtles, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) Hotline at 1-888-404-3922.
Please do not disturb tracks left by turtles. Biologists rely on these markings to identify the species of turtle and to find and mark the nests. It is important to know that not all nests will be marked with stakes and flagging, only about 10 percent of the nests laid will be marked for conservation research purposes. The unmarked nests will incubate on their own.
Properly disposing of trash and recycling can help marine life. However, one aspect most people do not consider is “How sustainable is the fish we eat?” Making smart consumer choices have an indirect impact on sea turtles and other marine life.
Shut off the lights! Artificial lights — including flashlights, cell phones, and fires — are detrimental to sea turtles. Beaches with lights discourage adult turtles from laying nests and cause hatchlings to crawl the wrong direction and perish. Indian River County adopted regulations that provide protections to sea turtles and restrict beachfront lighting from March 1st to October 31st. Section 932.09 of the County Code of Ordinances (Ord. No. 90-16) set forth parameters for artificial lighting, including the following requirements:
“…Floodlights shall be prohibited… pole lights shall be shielded… Low-profile downward directed luminaries, with shields if necessary, shall be used in parking lots, and such lighting shall be positioned so that no light directly or indirectly illuminates the beach…. Lights illuminating buildings or associated grounds for decorative or recreational purposes shall be shielded or screened such that they do not directly or indirectly illuminate the beach, or turned off after 9:00 p.m. during the period from March 1 to October 31 of each year.”
It takes about 25 to 30 years for a turtle to grow to a reproductive size. Once ready, the females return to the same beaches they hatched from. Since the passing of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, sea turtle populations have started to recover but still have a long road ahead before we see stable population numbers.
Questions? Contact Quintin Bergman, Sea Turtle Environmental Specialist for Indian River County at firstname.lastname@example.org .