"To protect and restore the Florida coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems
through education, research and community stewardship."

It’s Sea Turtle Time Again

May 1st, 2017 | Category: Announcements, Central Florida News, Coastal Corner, MDC News

By Lisa D. Mickey

While sea turtle nesting season officially starts May 1 on Florida beaches, several species of turtles have arrived early on the shores of Volusia County.

Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle

Leatherback turtles arrived early in April, and a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle nested in Wilbur-by-the-Sea on April 24 – an uncommon nester on our beaches.

The only sea turtle species that nests predominantly during daylight hours, Kemp’s Ridley turtles primarily nest on a 16-mile stretch of beach in Tamaulipas, Mexico, said Karrie Minch, FWC Wildlife Technician and East Coast Sea Turtle Stranding Coordinator.

This species typically comes to shore in an “arribada,” in which large groups – sometimes totaling thousands — arrive to nest over a span of a few days. In the United States, Kemp’s Ridleys may also be found in Texas. Florida is not a typical geographic nesting preference for this species.

“It’s exciting since it’s not something that is expected every year,” said Minch of the Kemp’s Ridley nest in Volusia County. “There was also a nest north of the inlet last year, but it’s just not very common.”

More common are nests of loggerhead and green turtles on Volusia County beaches –especially along the shores of Canaveral National Seashore, where sea turtles dug 5,345 nests last year, said Nancy Malmberg, a local volunteer Turtle Tracker. The 2016 season also included 676 sea turtle nests on Volusia County beaches, including leatherback, loggerhead, green and one Kemp’s Ridley nest.

When you consider there may be between 80-100 eggs per nest, the importance of keeping nesting areas safe on our beaches cannot be understated.

With the official start of turtle nesting season — which spans until late October — all nests on Volusia County beaches will be monitored seven days a week. Authorized marine turtle permit holders actually began monitoring the beaches several mornings a week in April. Those trained Turtle Tracker volunteers look for new nests or beach crawls by the female turtles at sunrise each day.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

But while wildlife officers and a team of volunteers help monitor and protect these nests, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking the public to remember that sea turtle mothers may become frightened when they experience cell phone photo flashes as they crawl onto a beach. A mother who becomes spooked by onlookers may simply turn around and return to the ocean, potentially losing her clutch of eggs in the sea because she was unable to nest on the beach.

Anyone who spends time on the beach can help sea turtles,” said Minch. “Just remember to enjoy nature’s beauty from a distance.”

Minch reminds beach goers to remove all trash when leaving the beach and to fill in any holes that have been dug on the beach so nesting and hatching sea turtles don’t become trapped.

Also be sure to remove all beach chairs, cabanas and tents from the beach each night, as their presence may deter nesting females and interfere with hatchlings crawling toward the water.

Lights on the beach are always a concern for sea turtles, as hatchlings associate it with light on the ocean – their destination when they leave the nest and attempt to enter the Atlantic Ocean. Avoid the use of any lights on beaches where nesting is taking place, including residential and business lighting, car lights, flashlights and flash photography.

In addition to using discretion around turtle nests, it is also illegal to harm, harass or take sea turtles, their eggs and hatchings, including getting too close to a nesting female.

“All of these actions can have a positive impact on our sea turtle population,” added Minch.

And if 2017 is anything like 2016, Volusia County beaches will serve as a significant nursery to thousands of baby sea turtles just beginning their journey.