With first sea turtle nest of 2022 discovered on Longboat Key, county residents asked to help hatchlings survive

Eliminating disorienting lighting and removing obstacles from the beaches the primary ways to assist turtles, county staff points out

Protective tape surrounds the Longboat Key nest discovered on April 24. Image courtesy Mote Marine Laboratory via Facebook

Sarasota County beaches are home to the largest population of nesting sea turtles on Florida’s Gulf Coast from May 1 through Oct. 31, Sarasota County environmental staff pointed out in a news release this week.

During that period, the release adds, residents and visitors can help sea turtles “by reducing light pollution at night and eliminating obstacles along beaches.”

Early in the afternoon on April 25, Mote Marine Laboratory staff announced on Facebook, “The first sea turtles have officially landed on the shores of Sarasota County this past weekend! On April 24, our Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program [STCRP] documented the first nest of the season at the southern end on Longboat Key.

“You know what that means — nesting season has started!”

The post added, “Technically, sea turtle nesting season starts on May 1 here on the Southwest coast of Florida, but they just couldn’t wait any longer.

“That’s why our STCRP staff and volunteers monitor the beaches before nesting season is supposed to start, so they don’t miss the very first nest!”

The Sarasota County Marine Turtle Protection Ordinance (MTPO), adopted in 1997, “outlines the requirements to help sea turtles beat the odds by eliminating white light visible from the beach and nesting obstacles,” the county release adds. “Residents and visitors can accomplish this by using long-wavelength bulbs such as red or amber LEDs with shielded fixtures, and by removing beach furniture and recreational items nightly.”

“Sarasota County averages more than 200 sea turtle nests per mile along coastal shorelines, but only one out of every 1,000 hatchlings survive to adulthood,” said University of Florida/Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Marine and Coastal Sea Grant Agent Armando Ubeda in the release.

While most hatchlings die from predators, Ubeda added, the majority die from exhaustion or starvation caused by disorienting bright, artificial lights steering them away from the water.

This is part of a county guide to helping nesting sea turtles and hatchlings. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Jaclyn Irwin, Sarasota County wildlife specialist, noted that, in addition to using appropriate lighting and removing recreational items, avoiding the use of flashlights, knocking down sandcastles, filling in holes, and taking belongings and trash off the beaches “are great ways to enhance sea turtle nesting habitat.”

Members of the public also are reminded not to disturb sea turtles or their nests. Further, the public can report injured or distressed sea turtles to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

To learn more about sea turtles, contact UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County at 941-861-9900 or visit scgov.net and use the keywords “sea turtle lighting guide.”