NewsProtecting Paradise


Warning to beachgoers as sea turtle nesting season underway

Loggerhead Marinelife Center staff offer tips for beachgoers during season
Posted at 10:00 PM, Mar 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-04 01:29:55-05

JUNO BEACH, Fla. — If you're headed to the beach these next few months, you'll want to be on the lookout as sea turtle nesting is officially underway.

Staff with Loggerhead Marinelife Center said three nests have already been spotted on our beaches, and now the challenge is to protect them.

"I would like to know what type of turtles they are, are they threatened, and if they do lay, how do we protect the eggs?" said Sue Pohanka, visiting from New Jersey.

Pohanka is visiting West Palm Beach with her friend Miley Ramzi, who is from Virginia, as they are curious about the nesting season.

"What can we do to protect them?" asked Pohanka. "Make sure we're not walking over their nests and squashing them? I'm sure they'll be well-marked, but I'd like to know more about them."

The two said they went by the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, which has launched its nesting season awareness campaign, "Respect the Locals," as the area is seeing a surge in people from out of town.

"It's really important that we use that campaign that we're saying the locals being the sea turtles that use our beaches every year to lay their eggs," said Justin Perrault, the director of research with the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. "We get a lot of the snowbirds that may not know the rules and regulations around sea turtles."

Staff from the Center said they're working around the clock to find the nests and mark them off to protect them from beachgoers and keep track of the population numbers.

"Usually, at the end of June, early July is the peak of nesting season," said Perrault. "Up at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, our record is 524 nests in a single night on 9.5 miles of beach, so it's really remarkable out there to see these animals."

Perrault said they documented 18,000 nests last year.

He asks beachgoers to avoid digging holes in the sand as the mother and hatchlings can fall inside and get stuck and to be cautious with umbrellas as there may be an unmarked nest.

"Sea turtles return to the same region where they were born, so if you have a turtle that hatched here in southeastern Florida, it will return to southeastern Florida," said Perrault. "Doesn't mean the exact location, but somewhere maybe from Martin County to Miami."

He said all sea turtle species are protected under local, state, federal and international law, so they are threatened, and endangered species meaning they are covered under the endangered species act, so approaching them is against the law.

Getting too close to a nesting turtle could also spook the mother and cause her to abandon her nest.

"They're having to, you know, evade all the predators on the local beaches, and they're dealing with plastic ingestion, boat strikes, climate change, habitat loss, all of these things," said Perrault. "For a turtle that small to survive from, you know, a few grams to hundreds and hundreds to thousands of pounds is kind of my favorite part."

If you're by the beach at night, it's important to remember not to use any white light.

Loggerhead staff said it confuses the turtles on which direction they should go. Instead, you should use a red or amber light to which the turtles are less sensitive.

"In the mornings, we look for the clues that they leave in the sand, so each species has a unique crawl that we're able to tell which species actually laid the nest," said Perrault. "Right now, we only have leatherback turtles on our beaches, so come May, we'll start to have all three species."

Sea turtle nesting season is from March 1 through Oct. 31.