One of the beautiful parts of living on the Emerald Coast is sharing a home with marine wildlife. If you plan to venture out to the beaches between May and October, we warn you of nesting sea turtles. We strive to protect our turtles at all costs. Our goal is to inform our residents and visitors to prevent turtle endangerment. Here are a few tips and guidelines to keep in mind during nesting season.
From the South Walton Turtle Watch website, we found some of their top guidelines to conserve sea turtles and their hatchlings. First thing to keep in mind is turn off your flashlights! Sea turtles use the natural light of the moon to guide them to the water. You must turn off flashlights at night to prevent female sea turtles or their hatchlings from getting confused and going toward the light on land. Sea turtles belong in the salt water and if you must use light, here are a few alternatives to prevent the distraction of unnatural light among the turtles. Replace incandescent, fluorescent and high-intensity bulbs with FWC-certified low-wattage, long wavelength options available in red or amber colors. Turn out outdoor lights at night when not needed. With beach lighting, remember to:
Keep It Long – Long wavelength lights are better for turtles. Look for the red and amber lights that have been certified as turtle-friendly by the FWC.
Keep It Low – When illuminating walkways use low-wattage bulbs and install lights close to the ground.
Keep It Shielded – Focus lights down, not up or outward, to avoid confusing nesting turtles and hatchlings.
Shut Curtains and Blinds – Close curtains and draw blinds at night on beachfront windows and doors.
Aside from flashlight use, a few other important prevention steps to take during nesting season is don’t touch the baby sea turtles and clean up your mess at the end of the day. Both of these steps encourage a safe and easy return to the ocean. When a human comes in contact with a baby sea turtle or helps them move, this interrupts the natural steps in sea turtle return to the ocean. Digging into a sea turtle nest, entering a posted area, or picking up a sea turtle is against the law. Also, you should never take a flash photo of a sea turtle as it is against the law. Lastly, keep the area clean! At the end of the beach day, pick up your equipment and trash. Nesting mothers and hatchlings can get easily trapped or confused by gear left on the island. This will also prevent predators from entering the nest. Lastly, we ask that our beach-goers avoid burying poles in the sand; instead use pole-holders or sleeves instead.
We want to thank you for taking the time to stay informed on our beloved turtles! During the months of May-October please keep these preventative steps in mind next time you head out to the beach. If you would like to learn more on how you can help the sea turtles, head to South Walton Turtle Watch website, https://southwaltonturtlewatch.org/.