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Video shows men tampering with sea turtle nest, Ocean Rescue official says

Video shot by Lt. Andrea Van Der Plaats with Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue shows two men tampering with a sea turtle nest.PNG
Posted at 6:52 AM, Aug 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-16 08:33:08-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — In the heart of sea turtle nesting season, a Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue lieutenant said a video appears to show some men tampering with a nest at a local beach.

The woman behind the camera is hoping to teach a valuable lesson about wildlife protection.

"You feel a little bit helpless because there’s not a lot we can do to stop that kind of behavior once they do it. It’s really hurtful," said Lt. Andrea Van Der Plaats with Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue.

It’s a video that will make any ocean wildlife lover squirm.

"I just think they can do something better with their time and more productive. It's not funny," Van Der Plaats said.

The video was taken by Van Der Plaats.

"I told them that that was illegal and not very cool. He proceeded to walk down the beach here, start to dig up a turtle nest, and he literally stomped on it," Van Der Plaats said. "It’s just really tragic. It’s disheartening to see someone do that to our local wildlife. It’s just heartless."

The men in the video were able to leave before park rangers arrived.

According to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, the state of Florida is approaching about 200,000 sea turtle nests across all beaches.

"Any stake that you see on the beach almost always indicates a sea turtle nest," said Dr. Justin Perrault, the vice president of research at Loggerhead Marinelife Center.

But messing with those stakes and the nests is a federal crime.

"Sea turtles are protected because they are either threatened or endangered, meaning their populations are at risk of extinction in the near future," Perrault said. "he highest penalties that you can have for harassing a sea turtle, $25,000 or a criminal penalty of up to $100,000 and one-year imprisonment."

Loggerhead Marinelife Center has these tips.

"Observe with respect, keep your distance, don’t mess with any of the stakes," Perrault said.

While Van Der Plaats is just hoping this will be lesson learned.

"If nothing else, it will allow people to know that messing with turtle nests is a federal offense. And they may not have known that, especially visitors. They may not know," Van Der Plaats said.

WPTV reached out to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for a comment on the video and is still waiting to hear back.