Southwest Florida, along with the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico are home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, and every year are visited by female sea turtles for the sole purpose of nesting. Night time sea turtle walks are often organised in June and July, for the public to see these hundred-pound creatures come ashore to lay their clutches of eggs.
The Sea Turtle population is in major decline. The Sea Turtles native to the United States are classed as a threatened species, but the international species are classed as endangered. Florida has 3 common species of Sea Turtle, they are the Leatherback, Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtle.
Why are Sea Turtles Important?
These animals play an important role in the ecosystem, which is why it is human kind needs to learn about and help conserve these animals. On land, they keep the grasses, along the beach under control, as they munch on them when ashore. They also eat other sea creatures, as a result they are do not become over populated. For example, Leatherback Sea Turtles eat jellyfish, without them the sea could well become over run with jellyfish. Fish also make up a huge portion of the Sea Turtle diet.
Sea Turtles are also important for apex predators, such as Sharks, Orcs and large fish as they rely on Sea Turtles as a food source. Without them, they too could also be in decline or appear on the endangered species list.
Where to Go This Nesting Season?
Sea Turtles swim to shore and build their nest above the high tide line. As previously mentioned local marine centres and councils organise night-time events on the beach. These are an organised opportunity to watch female sea turtles, dig their nest, which takes between 20-30 minutes to complete.
They swim onto the shore and once they find a suitable site they dig as far down as their fins can reach, normally 2 feet. Once the hole has been dug, they lay around 100 eggs. Then cover their eggs with sand to fill it and make it look like nothing is buried under the surface. This is done to protect the eggs from predators, such as racoons and dogs.
But where are the best places to see some turtle nesting action? Always, check the websites and pre-book, as places on tours and walks are limited. Some of them may included a fee. Here are some suggestions:
- Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, is a great place to see Leatherback turtles. This area includes Melbourne Beach to Wabasso Beach on the East Coast. To attend a viewing pre-book and pay $15 upon arrival.
- Canaveral National Seashore Reservations is located between New Smyrna Beach and Titusville on the East Coast of Florida. There is also a live webcam from June to November.
- Florida Power & Light: On South Hutchinson Island there is a Friday and Saturday night turtle walk at 9pm. There are 50 spots available on each walk.
- Sebastian Inlet State Park. From Friday to Tuesday a nightly walk starting at 9pm takes place on Melbourne Beach.
- John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, North Palm Beach offers a chance to see a Loggerhead Sea Turtles when you attend their Monday and Thursday night walk, which operates in June and July.
- John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, located in Dania, has 1-3 hours walks to see the local Loggerheads nesting. These walks take place on Wednesdays and Fridays, in June and July.
If you are in a different part of Florida, check out the Florida Wildlife Viewing website. There you can find local walks organised to witness the incredible Sea Turtle nesting.
How Can You Help a Sea Turtle?
One female turtle can lay between 50-150 eggs in any one season. The female population of Sea Turtles create several nests, along the many beaches of Florida. Unfortunately, only 1 in 1000 of the hatched turtles will it make it to adulthood. You can help the survival of these super cute creatures, by following these steps:
Be vigilant on the beach
When a nesting area is found a clearly marked border, made with poles and fluorescent tape, will be built around the nest. The purpose of this is to increase awareness on the beach to people passing by. If you see a taped off square area, do not step inside or touch it. Sea Turtles need our help in keeping them undisturbed.
Throw away your trash
Whenever you visit the beach, help the sea turtles by correctly disposing of all your rubbish, especially fishing lines. Finishing lines can severely damage sea turtles when they get tangled around their necks and fins.
If you live along the beach front, switch off your porch lights. Modern society has formed a thin line between daytime and night-time. Now there are thousands of street lights and flashing advertisement boards that light up dark streets. Unfortunately, this human safeguard is confusing to the hatchlings. Instead of walking towards the sea, they walk towards the city lights and may never make it to the ocean.