With sea turtle nesting season underway, public advised of ways to help instead of hinder hatchlings

Primary caution is to avoid using lights on the beaches at night

Photo courtesy of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission

As summer approaches and trips to the beach become more frequent, Sarasota County staff is reminding all visitors and residents “to keep light out of sight” during sea turtle nesting season.

As of May 1, “Sarasota County beaches play host to the largest population of nesting sea turtles on the Gulf Coast of Florida,” a news release points out. Typically, the number equates to more than 200 nests per mile.

“The biggest threats to sea turtle survival are often man-made: artificial lighting, beach furniture, coastal structures and indigestible plastic,” the release stresses.

“Only one out of every 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood, as each year thousands of hatchlings die from predation, exhaustion and starvation,” because of the disorientation caused by bright artificial lights, the release adds.

Sarasota County Government regulates beachfront lighting and storage of recreational items, such as beach furniture, the release notes. Activities disruptive to sea turtles are prohibited during nesting season, which officially lasts from May 1 through Oct. 31.

County staff offers a number of ways the public can 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.
  • Enjoy recreation in locations away from marked nesting areas.

Property owners must either extinguish or shield lights visible from the beach or replace white incandescent, fluorescent and high-intensity lighting with amber or red light-emitting diodes (LED) or low-pressure sodium vapor (LPS) fixtures, the release points out.

Have questions or need assistance with adjusting the lighting on your property? Contact the Sea Turtle Protection Program at 861-5000 or visit scgov.net and enter the keyword “wildlife.”

To report an injured or dead sea turtle, contact the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC (3922).