Sea turtle hatchlings are beginning to appear on beaches throughout the Sunshine State, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking the public to help ensure these tiny turtles reach the ocean by following a few simple guidelines.
During sea turtle nesting season (March 1 – Oct. 31), it is important to keep your distance from these protected marine reptiles and their nests. You should allow hatchlings to crawl toward the ocean on their own. Any interference or disturbance, including getting too close, can cause hatchlings to become confused and lose their way.
Bright lights, whether from buildings, phones or cameras, can also cause them to become disoriented, leading the hatchlings to stray away from the waves. If they are unable to reach the ocean quickly, they can become vulnerable to dehydration, exhaustion and predators.
“Interfering with a sea turtle hatchling’s trek to the ocean can have fatal consequences,” said FWC sea turtle biologist Robbin Trindell. “It’s very important to leave them undisturbed. By keeping beaches dark and giving sea turtles space, we can make sure that our children and grandchildren can also enjoy watching them make this amazing journey.”
There are many ways you can make a difference for Florida’s sea turtles:
Keep beaches dark for sea turtles – After sundown, turn off any lights not necessary for human safety. Use long wavelength amber LED lamps for lights that must stay lit and shield lights, so they are not visible from the beach. Remember to close shades or curtains.
No flash photos – On the beach at night, don’t take flash photos or use bright cellphones or flashlights. This can cause turtles to become disoriented and crawl away from the ocean, putting them at risk.
Remember, sea turtles are protected by law – Stay back and give sea turtles space if you see one on the beach at night. Don’t touch a nesting turtle because it may leave the beach without nesting if disturbed. Remember, it is illegal to harm or disturb nesting sea turtles, their nests, eggs or hatchlings.
Clear the way at the end of the day – Beach furniture, canopies, boats and toys left behind on the sand can become obstacles that block nesting and hatchling turtles. Fill in any holes dug in the sand. Holes can trap turtles, and can also pose a safety risk for other beachgoers.
Before taking any action, report sea turtles that are sick, injured, dead, entangled or otherwise in danger to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline: 1-888-404-3922 or text Tip@MyFWC.com.