30A Sea Turtle Conservation
Every year, between May 1 and October 31, four species of sea turtles nest along the 30A beaches of Northwestern Florida. Since all sea turtles are either threatened or endangered, we thought you would be interested in learning about the sea turtle conservation efforts in Santa Rosa Beach and the surrounding 30A communities before you visit. Sea turtle conservation begins when trained volunteers find nests. Once the nests are discovered, volunteers watch for and keep a close eye on the sea turtles and their eggs. Egg monitoring begins on about day 50 of the 60 to 70-day incubation period. When volunteers hear the young turtles scratching their way out of the eggs, a protective screen is placed over the entire nest in order to protect the hatchlings from predators and from becoming confused once they emerge from their shells.
Once hatched, baby sea turtles are watched closely by volunteers who sit by the nests nightly to make sure all the hatchlings safely reach the waters of the Gulf. Hatchlings can often get diverted by artificial lights that may be brighter than the moonlight they use to help them locate the water. This interference causes the hatchlings to waste valuable energy wandering around on the beach that they need, instead, to safely reach the ocean.
Major Issues that Hinder a Hatchling’s and Sea Turtle’s Survival
Raccoons, crabs, fish, seabirds and other predators eat young hatchlings. Beach pollution and marine debris are harmful if the turtles ingest or get tangled in any of it.
Humans trying to help hatchlings to the ocean may do more harm than good. Hatchlings need to get to the ocean by themselves, with assistance only from trained volunteers. Human involuntary interference is also a problem during shrimp trawling, longline fishing, and beach development and construction.
What You can do to Help
- 1. Don’t get in the sea turtle’s way. Touching or going near the turtles may alarm or confuse them and cause them to return to the water before they can complete their nests.
- 2. Fill in holes, destroy sandcastles, remove beach chairs, tables, tents, furniture, toys and any other obstacles on the beach that may impede the turtles as they make their way to nesting sites or as hatchlings attempt to reach the ocean.
- 3. Properly dispose of all trash, plastic or unwanted beach gear, as debris that winds up in the water is hazardous to all marine life.
- 4. Don’t build bonfires near sea turtle nests.
- 5. During turtle season, use a flashlight with a red bulb or filter while walking along the beach at night so you won’t interrupt the turtles’ attempts to reach the water.
- 6. If you do come across a hatchling, egg or turtle that is in danger of any kind, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at the numbers located on their website: http://myfwc.com/
Remember, interfering with a sea turtle, turtle nest, eggs or hatchlings is a federal offense. A $100,000 fine and/or a one-year prison sentence awaits anyone who violates this law.
We can all do our part to protect these amazing creatures so they will be around for future generations to enjoy. So please keep this in mind while you’re riding your paddle board, kayak or bicycle rentals from The Rental Shop 30A on the beaches along 30A.