Seven ways to save the sea turtles during your Florida beach vacationApril 20 2016

By Searcy Sledge

Sea Turtle Hatchling_Visit Pensacola

Summertime brings more than tourists, sunny days and warm weather to the beaches of the Gulf Coast. It also brings sea turtles back to Florida. In fact, more than 90 percent of all U.S. sea turtles nest in the Sunshine State, making it the sea turtle capitol of America.

Each year, mother sea turtles return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs. They pull themselves onto shore during the night, bury their unhatched young in the sand, and return to the sea. Two months later, the baby sea turtles will emerge from their nests, scamper back into the ocean and begin the whole cycle anew.

Whether you plan a turtle experience or stumble upon a turtle on a sunset stroll, you will remember your first turtle sighting. These seven tips will make sure you — and the turtles — get the most out of it.

1. Keep it dark

 Artificial or bright light can affect sea turtles’ ability to see and will disorient them. If you must use a flashlight, use a red filter. Some red cellophane taped over your flashlight makes for a handy substitute.

2. Don’t flash

Sea turtles love social media as much as you do. Don’t believe us? Go check out Turtle on Instagram and see what he’s up to. Even more than selfies, though, sea turtles love natural lighting. Flash photography, like other bright lights, can disorient these beautiful creatures. Keep this in mind before you snap your next photo.

3. Let it be

Turtles are equipped with powerful jaws, perfect for crunching through clams, crabs and the other hard-armored creatures that form the bulk of their diet. Turtles’ jaws also make for a useful weapon — perfect for fending off nosy tourists. For your safety and that of the turtles, please do not ride, handle or hold them or their eggs. Keep a safe distance.

4. Clean up

Our beaches are some of the most pristine and celebrated in the nation. Cleaning up after yourself not only keeps the sand white and the water blue. It also protects turtles and their nests. Lawn chairs, coolers and umbrellas, if left out over night, can become obstacles to mother turtles as they drag themselves onto the beach to lay their eggs or to baby turtles as they return to the sea. Litter can also make its way into the water, where turtles are likely to mistake it for food or get tangled in it, leading to injury or even death.

5. Knock it down and fill it in

Your sand castle and moat are very impressive and we’d love to see them on our Facebook page. Unfortunately, they can also create obstacles that make it harder for sea turtles to come to shore. Please take the time each night to knock your castle down and fill in any holes, so that our turtle friends can come and go as they please.

6. Get involved

If you want to do even more to help protect sea turtles, you should consider volunteering. There are many ways to get involved, including throwing a Sea Turtle House Party or adopting a turtle. For even more ways to help out, visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s website.

7. See something, say something

If you see anything suspicious, alert someone immediately. If you are in Florida, please call the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922. If you are in Alabama, please call Alabama Sea Turtles Share the Beach at 866-Sea-Turtle.

 

For additional information about what to do if you see a sea turtle, visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy’s website.