It’s nesting season for sea turtles in Southwest Florida from May 1 until Oct. 31. Keep in mind that Sarasota beaches are not only for our enjoyment; they’re also prime nesting spots for endangered and threatened sea turtle species. Make sure you’re turtle friendly by following these eight tips,courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory.
It’s important for the public to remember that after sea turtles mate offshore, females swim ashore to nest. Meanwhile, juvenile turtles spend their time feeding on the Gulf Coast, and the first hatchlings will journey into the Gulf waters in the beginning of summer.
Turn Off the Lights
Female turtles and their young can confuse the lights from waterfront properties as the dim natural light from the sea—so shield or turn off lights that can be detachable on the beach from now through October. And make sure to not use fishing lamps, flashlights or fireworks on the beach.
Remove Your Beach Supplies
Beach furniture, trash and other obstacles can hurt sea turtles and their young. Make sure to remove any beach furniture on the shore after dark, and fill in holes that might stop hatchlings from reaching the water.
Keep your distance by remaining a few yards away from sea turtles or hatchlings. Do not shine lights or make noises that will disturb the turtles. And do not encourage turtles to move while nesting, or by picking up hatchlings that are moving towards the water.
Follow Boating Guidelines
On the water, make sure to follow Coast Guard-approved boating guidelines to help avoid striking sea turtles (and other larger marine life). Wearing polarized sunglasses while boating is crucial to better see marine life in your path.
Littering is illegal, and debris that is found in the water can be ingested by or entangled around marine life. Help protect sea turtles by making sure all trash is disposed of properly, and collect any trash left behind and place it in a lidded trash can.
Watch Out for Lost Hatchlings
If you find sea turtle hatchlings that are far away from the beach or not heading towards the ocean, place rescued hatchlings in a bucket with damp sand and shield the bucket with a towel. Also, do not place hatchlings in water or take them into air conditioning. Immediately call Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation Research Program at (941) 388-4331 for further instructions.
Reach Out to Professionals
If you come across a stranded, injured or sick sea turtle in Sarasota or Manatee county waters, contact Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program at (941) 988-0212. Call your local sheriff’s department or call Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at (941) 388-4331 if you believe someone is harassing a sea turtle, tampering with a sea turtle nest or has possession of a sea turtle.