CLEARWATER — Clearwater Marine Aquarium reminds the public that sea turtle nesting season runs May-Oct. 31, a time when sea turtles return to the beach where they were born to lay eggs.
Up to five different species of sea turtles nest along beaches in the state of Florida. Those include leatherbacks, green sea turtles, loggerheads, Kemp’s ridley and hawksbills, all of which are threatened or endangered species.
“We want to remind locals, new residents and tourists that the nesting season is here, and to be attentive when visiting the beach during this special time,” said CMA’s Sea Turtle Conservation Program manager, Lindsey Flynn.
Flynn’s team recently found its first sea turtle nest in their area, which is historically early and the first ever recorded by CMA before the official start of the season on May 1.
She and her team of 24 staff, college interns and volunteers are trained each year to carefully monitor almost 21 miles of beach, seven days a week, starting from April 15. They look for signs of turtle tracks that show a female turtle has nested nearby.
“While sea turtle hatchlings look cute and cuddly, it is important not to interact with them, as they are protected by state and federal laws,” officials said. “It is also very important to take items with you at the end of the beach day, so turtles can nest and hatch successfully overnight.
Aquarium officials offered several tips for helping the turtle population to thrive:
• Pick up trash, especially plastic bags, which can be mistaken for jellyfish, one of turtles’ favorite foods.
• Fill any holes dug during your stay on the beach.
• Knock down sand castles at the end of a beach outing.
• Never touch or disturb a sea turtle or nest.
• Keep flashlights and camera phone lights turned off at night.
• Beach residents and businesses should change outdoor lights to turtle-friendly options.
• Use special protective window treatments on doors and windows to minimize interior light from reaching the beach.
• To report an injured turtle, call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888) 404-3922