Sarasota County beaches play host to the largest population of nesting sea turtles on the Florida's Gulf Coast. This year, Mote Marine Laboratory's Sea Turtle Conservation Program has already documented the first nest of the season on April 24, on the southern end of Longboat Key.
Sea turtle nesting season officially begins Sunday, May 1 and will go through Oct. 31. In this time, residents are urged to keep light out of sight and remove unused beach furniture and coastal structures during that time.
Each season, there's an average of more than 200 sea turtle nests per mile along Sarasota County's coastline; however, only one out of every 1,000 hatchlings survive to adulthood. Most die from predators, and the exhaustion and starvation caused by disorienting bright, artificial lights.
Here are some ways to help sea turtles beat the odds:
- Each night, remove all furniture and recreational items from the beach and store them in an area landward of the beach and dunes.
- Properly dispose of trash. Sea turtles ingest plastic bags, and garbage attracts predators that eat turtle eggs.
- Knock down sand sculptures and fill in holes before you leave the beach so turtles have direct access into and out of the water. A turtle that falls into a hole cannot get out.
- Reduce use of flashlights on the beach at night.
- Recreate in locations away from marked nesting areas.
- Property owners must either extinguish all white lights visible from the beach or replace them with amber or red light-emitting diodes (LED) or low-pressure sodium vapor (LPS) bulbs and pair them with shielded fixtures.
For questions or assistance with adjusting the lighting on your property, contact Sarasota County’s Sea Turtle Protection Program at (941) 861-5000 or visit scgov.net.