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Nesting sea turtles need your help

By Staff | Jul 27, 2010

It is a rare and special sight to come across a nesting sea turtle. Unfortunately, this nesting season, there have been numerous instances of beachgoers interfering with the nesting attempts of these ancient creatures, sometimes willfully. 

There have been nesting attempts abandoned due to furniture, tents, and other debris left on the beach, as well as a number of nesting attempts interrupted by uneducated beachgoers. After a certain number of attempts, a sea turtle that has been unable to nest will eject its eggs in the water, so failed nesting attempts matter greatly.

Sea turtles are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act making it illegal to interfere with their nesting and hatching in any way. Things that fall under this category include:

• Leaving furniture, tents, and toys on the beach

• Approaching a nesting sea turtle (especially with a flashlight)

• Interfering with hatchlings or using flash photography or flashlight of hatchlings

• Taking flash photographs of sea turtles

It is important to remember that the city ordinances require dark beaches and require all beachgoers to take everything off the beach by 9 p.m. These ordinances exist to protect sea turtles and ensure their continued survival for generations to come.

Sea turtles are easily disturbed by movement, lights, and noise.  If you encounter a sea turtle on a nighttime stroll, please, keep a respectful distance (at least 150 ft) and watch quietly. 

The nesting numbers are down this year statewide. Added to the catastrophic effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a successful nesting season on Sanibel and Captiva islands can help sea turtles throughout the gulf survive and rebound.