Beach warning: Do not disturb sea turtles
For the third time since sea turtle nesting season began on May 1, there has been daylight reports of harassment of the endangered species that come ashore each year after a mating ritual to nest on beachfront dunes on Estero Island. The latest incident occurred just south of Junkanoo’s on the Beach on June 10, at 7:55 p.m.
While many think that “playing” with a live female sea turtle as she makes her way to a nesting location is considered harmless, you can guess again. Violators are subject to fines and imprisonment.
Sea turtles are protected by Florida Law Chapter 370, which states that “no person may take, possess, disturb, mutilate, destroy, cause to be destroyed, sell, offer for sale, transfer, molest, or harass any marine turtle or its nest or eggs at any time” and by the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973.
Turtle Time founder Eve Haverfield was distraught upon the latest event.
“Unfortunately … again … people ran up to her, tried to touch her and, as a result of people’s careless behavior, the turtle crawled back into the Gulf,” she said. “Beachgoers need to know that it is illegal to touch or disturb an endangered marine turtle.”
Sea turtle season is from May 1 and ends Oct. 31. The six-month season allows the annual process of our long-time reptilian friends to swim ashore, nest on dunes and lay between 100-120 eggs following their annual mating ritual in Gulf waters. After the eggs incubate for roughly two months, the hatchlings emerge from those nests upon hatching, seek the seaward horizon as natural light in their pursuit to reach the Gulf and swim for their lives using the Gulf Stream in hopes to reach the Sargasso Sea. They are then known to return to their birth place once they reach adulthood.
Turtle Time volunteers monitor the beach every early morning to check for tracks and eventually stake and protect nests from unnatural intrusion. While the creatures usually come ashore during dark hours, they do also arrive during daylight hours.
To be successful, the whole nesting process needs attention, protection and help from Beach residents and visitors alike.
“I would hope that beachfront businesses take the initiative to provide and distribute educational materials to their guests,” said Haverfield. “A better informed guest usually is a more responsible visitor.”