SHARING THE BEACH
Summer has arrived, and here in Central Florida that means both visitors and sea turtles are on our beaches. Each year during this time, our organization fields dozens of calls, messages and reports about disruptive human behavior impacting sea turtles. This year is no exception.
Please take a few minutes to learn how each of us can help protect sea turtles and their habitats. By educating ourselves, and our family and friends, we can do our part to help 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 with 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.