VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - Sea turtle nesting season begins on Wednesday, meaning that hundreds of sea turtles will emerge from the surf to lay eggs on the beach in the next few months.
After incubating in the sand for about two months, tiny hatchlings will break free and crawl to the ocean while dodging predators, holes, trash, and beach furniture. However, unfortunately, only about one in 1,000 to 10,000 hatchlings will make it safely to sexual maturity.
Jennifer Winters of the Volusia County sea turtle Habitat Conservation Plan program says that she could use the public's help in improving these odds.
“We need everybody’s help to make this a safe and productive nesting season,” she said. “We encourage residents and visitors to respect our wildlife and ‘let the night provide the light.’”
Many sea turtles are harmed by beachfront lighting as well. Winters says that “artificial lighting is a human-made threat we can correct with minimal effort." She also said that “Bright lights can prevent females from nesting, and they can confuse hatchlings, leading them away from the ocean and into the streets or storm drains. By simply redirecting lights away from the beach and turning them off when not in use, beachfront residents can help sea turtles survive.”
Volusia County's Environmental Management Division reportedly works with beachfront property owners thorughout the year, educating them about the sea turtle lighting ordinance. During nesting reason, residents must turn off, shield, or redirect lights so that they do not shine on the beach.
Volusia County officials advise that residents and visitors help save sea turtle lives by following these steps:
- Do not touch or disturb turtles or their nests. It’s important that hatchlings make their own way to the ocean.
- Do not disturb the dune system or plants. Use designated beach access points and do not walk on the dunes.
- When driving at the beach, use the designated traffic lanes and parking areas. Beach driving access hours are from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. throughout the season, tide permitting.
- Do not use flash photography at night.
- Do not use cellphones to light your way at night.
- Use only red LED flashlights; they are less visible to turtles.
- After a day at the beach, flatten sandcastles, fill in holes, and take your chairs and equipment with you. This is an easy way to reduce obstacles faced by turtles.
- Dispose of trash and recyclables in proper receptacles. Trash left on the beach can attract predators.
- Do not use fireworks. They are not only prohibited on the beach at all times, but they can be disruptive to the turtles.
- If you see a nesting adult sea turtle or hatchlings making their way to the ocean, admire them from a distance. Stand far away, remain calm and quietly watch this miracle unfold. If a turtle appears to be in immediate danger, notify a lifeguard or Beach Safety officer or call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922.
Sea turtle nesting season begins on May 1st and runs through October 31st. Typically, 400 to 500 nests are laid a year in Volusia County, officials said. In 2018, there were 577 nests laid in Volusia county.
For more information about Volusia County's sea turtle program, call 386-238-4668 or visit the Volusia County Sea Turtle website.