With the approach of Eta, post-hatchling sea turtles are being washed in along with the sargassum seaweed on Brevard County beaches. These little guys, commonly called washbacks, hatched earlier in the summer and swam 20-25 miles offshore to the Sargasso Sea, where they have been living in the floating beds of seaweed. Storms, waves, and wind can disrupt these beds and bring the young sea turtles to shore along with the seaweed.
Please do not go looking for these post-hatchling sea turtles. Rest assured that STPS has trained and authorized personnel in its Sea Turtle Emergency Response Program, or STERP, that will survey the beaches as needed. These volunteers have received training and been authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Please remember that sea turtles are protected by law, and it is illegal to touch one of any size.
If you do happen to find a post-hatchling on the beach, please follow these guidelines:
- CALL the STPS emergency hotline at 321-206-0646 or FWC at 888-404-3922 for guidance.
- DO NOT put the post-hatchling into the ocean. It likely will not have enough energy to survive.
- DO NOT place the post-hatchling in water or air conditioning. This could further injure or kill the sea turtle.
Thank you for your dedication to helping sea turtles survive.
It’s Sea Turtle Nesting Season
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 and flashlights, at night during this time. It is 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. Please remember sea turtles are a protected species and may not be disturbed or harassed.
Do not disturb sea turtles
Never approach or touch a nesting sea turtle. Keep lights off, stay back, and be quiet. If she is disturbed, she may return to the ocean without laying eggs, or may leave before covering her nest completely.
Hands off hatchlings
Allow hatchlings to crawl on their own to the ocean. Turtles imprint on the beach that they hatch on and picking them up could interfere with this natural process. Do not remove hatchlings or eggs from a nest.
Lights out for 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. This includes flashlights, cellphones, and red lights. Although sea turtles are less affected by red light, they do still see it.
Pick up beach chairs and umbrellas
Put away beach chairs, umbrellas, and any other obstacles to help avoid the potential risk of turtles getting stuck while on the beach. Larger turtles can easily get stuck underneath beach chairs or in the slats and become trapped.
Fill in holes
Before leaving the beach, fill in any holes. These pose a threat to both humans and sea turtles who may fall into them. Adult sea turtles as well as hatchlings can become trapped in a deep hole.
Knock down sandcastles
Sandcastles can keep hatchlings from reaching the ocean, and adults may expend extra energy going around these obstacles.
Leave only footprints
Properly dispose of all trash so that it doesn’t end up in the water. Debris on the beach can be an obstacle for nesting mothers as well as hatchlings.
Stay off the dunes and vegetation
Use only designated crossovers to access the beach. Staying off the dunes will protect the vegetation as well as shorebird nests and sea turtle nests.
Beach bonfires are not allowed during nesting season. A fire poses a serious risk to both incubating nests and hatchlings. The heat from a fire built on top of an incubating nest would destroy it, and hatchlings emerging and traveling toward the brightest light might be drawn to the fire. In addition, the bright light of a fire and people nearby may scare off nesting adult turtles.
Call for help
Know the local number for sea turtle emergencies. 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.