Heavy rain and rough weather along southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast are impacting sea turtle nests along the beaches, jeopardizing the eggs and hatchlings emerging from the nests.
Many nests of loggerhead and green turtles have been documented this year in Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties by people working under Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) permits to survey the beaches for sea turtle activity. Some nests are reported to have been impacted or lost due to recent weather conditions.
“Beach-goers can help sea turtle hatchlings survive by taking turtle-friendly actions along the weather-battered southwest Gulf Coast,” said Robbin Trindell, who heads the FWC’s sea turtle management program. “Remove all objects from the beach at night and fill in any holes or depressions on the beach at the end of the day. It’s also critical to keep the beach dark at night by turning off exterior lights on beachfront buildings and closing curtains or blinds.
“Please remember to not use flashlights or cell phone lights on the beach at night. Taking nighttime flash photographs of sea turtles or hatchlings is considered a disturbance, so if you do see a nesting turtle or hatchling on the beach at night, watch quietly from a distance without disturbing them by taking a photo.”
What if you see a sea turtle nest and its eggs being washed out, or find eggs on top of the sand? It is unlikely those eggs are viable. Within a short time after being laid, the eggs are vulnerable to any movement, which can disrupt development of the embryo within.
“While it is disappointing to see stranded sea turtle eggs on the beach, please leave them in place,” Trindell added. “You can help protect the sea turtle nests that remain by respecting the posted areas.”
In some cases, small sea turtles may be seen stranded on the beach. These hatchlings may have washed out of nests or been swept back onto the beach with the seaweed after beginning their swim offshore. All seaweed or “beach wrack” should be left in place at this time, since any removal could hurt the small sea turtles that may be present.
If you see live hatchlings on the beach, contact your local sea turtle conservation group or FWC’s Wildlife Alert at 1-888-404-FWCC. They will tell you where to take the hatchlings, which first should be placed on a damp towel and kept in the dark in a bucket or other container.
“Hatchlings can be placed on a wet towel or cloth in the dark until help arrives, but do not place the hatchlings in water!” Trindell said.
Possession of sea turtle eggs or hatchlings requires a special permit from the FWC. While your efforts to protect the hatchlings are appreciated, you should not take them off the beach and into your car or home unless directed to do so by the FWC or an FWC-authorized Marine Turtle Permit Holder.