NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. — Just days ago, beaches were packed in South Florida, despite growing concerns over the deadly coronavirus.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Protecting Paradise
"I was really just shaking my head," said Jackie Kingston, the Director of Sea Turtle Adventures in North Palm Beach. "There’s a time for that, almost any time of the year in Florida. But if we could just relax take a break for a few weeks, recharge, and stay at home, it’ll be time to get back on our waterways sooner than we know it."
But now, with beach closures in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River counties, less human interaction could end up helping our water quality and wildlife, especially sea turtles.
"On the beach they can get disrupted by beachgoers at night when they are in our local waterways. They can ingest plastic, get entangled with ropes," said Kingston.
WPTV also spoke to Dr. Brian LaPointe from FAU'S Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute over video chat from his home in Key West.
"We have seen a dramatic reduction of people, primarily tourists from the highways and the byways of the Florida Keys," said LaPointe. "All tourists have been requested to leave the county."
While Floridians remain patient, LaPointe said he expects to see immediate positive effects from the emergency orders to close local beaches.
"Everything from fishing to boat groundings, boats running over manatees, Those are direct effects," said LaPointe. "But indirect effects, like we’re seeing in Monroe County, is the runoff of say, wastewater or sewage or storm water as it's affected by millions of tourists."
Spring Break this year comes at a time when leatherback sea turtles are already nesting earlier in Palm Beach County.
Less foot traffic on beaches in South Florida, according to Kingston, means a better chance at a successful nesting season for other turtles.
"This is going to provide a short period of time for sea turtles, manatees, and the like to experience the beach as it once was decades ago," said Kingston.
Sea turtle nesting season ends on Oct. 31.