KEEP BEACHES CLEAN, FLAT, AND DARK
By Caitlin Calabrese and Susan Skinner
Residents and visitors can help to make our area as turtle friendly as possible by remembering to keep beaches clean, flat and dark from May 1 through Oct. 31.
County ordinances prohibit visible lights of any type, including cellphones, at night during this time. It’s also important to remove beach chairs and other obstacles each night as well as to knock down sandcastles and fill in any holes that may block or trap sea turtles. Beachgoers and residents alike can help make sure sea turtles have a safe journey to and from the ocean during this important season:
Turn off beach lights or use turtle friendly lights at night. Ensuring that turtles have the potential for a safe journey to and from the ocean is one of the biggest contributions that residents can make to help sea turtles. Brevard County has a Lights Out ordinance effective May 1 – October 31 that requires all lights visible from the beach to be either covered, blocked, moved, or turned off from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. It also bans the use of any lights that are not turtle friendly, including flashlights, cameras or recorders with a flash feature, floodlights, beach lights, or any other artificial lighting.
Put away beach chairs, umbrellas, and any other obstacles to help avoid the potential risk of turtles getting stuck when venturing inland or to the water after nesting. Larger turtles can easily get stuck underneath beach chairs or in the slats, and they become trapped. If you see a section of beach marked for a potential nest, keep beach furniture far away from it.
Pick up trash. Waste such as plastic bags and food containers can end up in the water and be ingested by sea turtles. Trash also can become an obstacle for nesting mothers as well as hatchlings. Leftover food debris can attract unwanted scavengers, including raccoons, dogs, birds, and coyotes who may find the nests and eat the eggs. Help avoid this by properly disposing of food waste, plastic, and any other trash you bring to the beach.
Stay away, and avoid contact with, nesting turtles, nests, or hatchlings. It is illegal to touch sea turtles or hatchlings on the beach. It may seem like a nice idea to help a hatchling make its way to the water, but in the end it is best to leave nature on its own. Turtles imprint on the beach that they hatch on and, if female, return there as an adult to lay their own eggs. Picking them up could interfere with this natural process. It is best to simply admire their beauty from afar. Fill in sand holes and knock down sandcastles. Sandcastles and holes dug in the sand can pose a threat to nesting turtles and hatchlings. Not only can hatchlings fall into the holes, but they can get blocked by large sandcastles.
Know the local number for sea turtle stranding and assistance. This is the easiest way to be prepared in case you ever encounter a sick, injured, or stranded sea turtle. You also can report the harassment or disturbance of sea turtles and their nests to FWC. In Brevard County, call the Sea Turtle Preservation Society’s emergency response line at 321-206-0646. You can also call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hotline at 888-404-3922 or on a mobile phone at *FWC or #FWC, depending on the provider.
Get involved. Residents and beachgoers can participate in local beach cleanups and walks to help provide a safe and clean environment for nesting turtles