PALM BEACH, Fla. — Sea turtle nesting season began this weekend in South Florida, and residents along the beach are reminded to comply with the “lights out” policy.
The town of Palm Beach issued a news release last week that reminds oceanfront property owners not to have visible lights along the beach anytime from March 1 through Oct. 31 during nesting season.
Artificial lighting can disorient sea turtle hatchlings, causing them to veer off course as they make their way to the Atlantic Ocean.
The town said in a written statement that, "it is believed that the resulting disorientation of sea turtle hatchlings from artificial lighting sources is a major cause in the decline of sea turtle populations worldwide."
To comply with the "lights out" policy, Palm Beach officials say "oceanfront property owners are required to shield or redirect any artificial lights illuminating any area of the beach or water that may be used by nesting sea turtles and hatchlings, or simply turn off the lights" during sea turtle nesting season.
The Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach said in 2019 a total of 20,998 nests were documented in the 9.5-mile stretch of beach that their researchers monitor.
Below is a breakdown of turtles nests documented last year:
* Loggerhead sea turtle nests: 13,400:
* Green sea turtle nests: 7,411
* Leatherback sea turtle nests: 187
"Sea turtles are the ocean’s canary in the coalmine. The health of our oceans and beaches go hand-in-hand with the health of our sea turtles," said Loggerhead Marinelife Center President and CEO Jack E. Lighton. "Our Center’s mantra is 'the sea turtle tells us the health of the ocean and the ocean tells us the health of our planet.' We strongly believe in a one ocean, one planet, one community vision and we are excited to amplify our efforts with the help of our supporters."
Sea turtles are protected by federal and state laws and the center encourages all beachgoers to abide by the following rules on beaches to protect sea turtles and nesting sites:
⦁ Keep your distance – Never approach or touch a nesting sea turtle. Keep your distance, remain quiet and keep all lights off (including flash photography and cell phones). Touching, prodding or shining lights may cause the sea turtle to not lay her eggs or disturb her and affect how well she covers and camouflages the nest.
⦁ Let hatchlings emerge – If you see hatchlings on the beach, allow them to crawl to the ocean on their own. Do not remove or dig hatchlings out of a nest. Removing sand above the nest will make it more difficult for the hatchlings to emerge.
⦁ Avoid the dune and vegetation – Enter the beach at designated access points and avoid walking on the dunes or beach vegetation to protect sea turtle nests, shorebird nests and the dune plant ecosystem.
⦁ Turn off lights – Keep lights at your house off while not in use and close your blinds at night to avoid adding to overall sky glow.
⦁ Fill in your holes – Fill all holes back in and knock over sand castles so that nesting turtles and hatchlings can’t fall into them and aren’t hindered as they crawl on the beach.
⦁ Draw the blinds – If you own or are using a beachfront property, make sure to close your blinds and avoid the use of unshielded outdoor lighting fixtures.
⦁ Don’t leave it behind – Remove obstacles such as beach chairs, tables, water-sport equipment and umbrellas before dark.
⦁ Don’t dig holes – Avoid digging holes or using shovels in order to not interfere with incubating sea turtle nests.
⦁ Don’t be a litterbug – Do not leave any trash behind. Trash can hinder nesting and hatchling turtles from crawling to and from the beach. Also, sea turtles may accidentally ingest trash left behind.
⦁ Don’t release balloons – Don’t release balloons, they travel far distances and can be eaten by sea turtles and other marine organisms.