BELLEAIR BEACH – With three months left in sea turtle nesting season, it is imperative to help out adult turtles and hatchlings as much as possible.
That was the word from Lindsey Flynn, the acting supervisor of sea turtles at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, who was speaking July 26 before members of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council in Belleair Beach.
Flynn said as turtle nesting season enters its final 90 days, it is important for beach residents and businesses to aid hatchlings by using amber, orange or red lights, shielded in a downward pattern, and keep interior white lights shielded by blinds or drapes.
Also, Flynn said, beachgoers should knock down sand castles and fill in sand pits before leaving the beach at the end of the day. Something so simple, she said, keeps the beach clean and helps hatchlings make their way into the Gulf of Mexico.
“I’d like to see a dark, clean beach at all of our municipalities so our turtles can find their way to the water,” said Flynn.
Flynn said something as small as a bottle cap or as large as beach furniture can cause potential problems, leading to both false crawls and disorientation of turtles.
Beginning in early May, female loggerhead and green turtles come ashore in the dark, dig a hole using their flippers, and lay 100 to 150 eggs at a time. According to the Pinellas County Department of Coastal Management, a single female lays three to eight nests. After a 50 to 65-day gestation period, hatchlings emerge from the nest at night and follow the moonlight reflecting off the Gulf.
If bright light is spotted along dunes and in homes or hotels, hatchlings often move in that direction and end up in Gulf Boulevard or parking lots where they get run over by cars.
Volunteers from Clearwater Marine Aquarium patrol a 25-mile stretch of the beach from Caladesi State Park south to Blind Pass in Treasure Island. St. Pete Beach and Shell Island are patrolled by a group of volunteers called Sea Turtle Trackers.
Each morning, volunteers reach the beach just before sunrise, seven days a week looking for sea turtle tracks. Once tracks are located, they determine if there is a nest or if the tracks were a non-nesting occurrence, or false crawl.
If a nest is located, volunteers mark the nests and collect data, such as the distance from high tide line, distance from beach vegetation and GPS coordinates. Then the waiting begins.
In spite of damage from Tropical Storm Colin and Hurricane Hermine, CMA volunteers reported 318 nests in 2016, which produced 13,199 hatchlings, Unfortunately, due to a number of hazards, only one in 1,000 hatchlings survive to become adult turtles.
• North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen said a deal is imminent on the two-acre site of the former Wine Cellar restaurant at 17307 Gulf Blvd. Queen said tentative plans call for a locally backed retail development that “will add to the ambiance of our town nicely.” The restaurant closed in 2013.
• Andy Squires, coastal resources section manager for Pinellas County, reported that construction of new rock jetties at Upham Beach in St. Pete Beach would begin this week. Work is expected to be complete sometime in February. Squires said the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers would award a bid for the upcoming Sand Key beach renourishment project in mid-September. The project, which extends from Sand Key south to Redington Shores, is expected to start in late fall or early winter. Squires said there will be four gaps – three due to easement issues and the other because the area doesn’t need sand.
• State Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island, urged beach leaders to become more vocal on the topic of home rule with state leaders. Peters said there is a movement underway that will continue in 2018 to eliminate cities and towns’ rights to govern themselves. “We need to get rid of the candidates that are killing us,” said Queen. “We might have to go out and search for our own candidates.” The 2018 legislative session begins Jan. 9.