It is South Florida’s sea turtle nesting season. The official nesting season runs March to October. Island Water Sports loves these local neighbors. So, we have made this official guide to help you get to know our local turtles and our favorite ways to enjoy sea turtle season while protecting their natural habitat.
Did you know that almost 90% of all sea turtle nesting in the US occurs on Florida beaches?
South Florida is the place turtles love to call home. And, during the next few months they will be returning to lay eggs on OUR local beaches. In fact, more than 100,000 threatened and endangered sea turtles will nest on our beaches this summer.
Sea turtle facts:
- Approximately 80% of Loggerhead turtles found in the United States use Florida beaches as their nesting site.
- Although sea turtles can migrate for thousands of kilometers, they usually return to lay their eggs on the exact same beach where they hatched.
- It can take 15 – 50 years before a sea turtle reaches reproductive age.
- Only one in a 1000 – 10,0000 turtle hatchlings will actually survive to adulthood.
- When it is time to sleep, Loggerhead turtles sometimes wedge themselves under a rock close to shore or take a nap while floating on the surface in deep water.
- The nest temperature during incubation determines the sex of sea turtles. Cool conditions produce males; hot conditions produce females.
- Sea turtles have good underwater vision, but they are nearsighted out of the water.
- Sea turtles do not have external ears, but they respond to low-frequency noises.
- Florida is the most important nesting area in the United States for Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback turtles. But, Hawksbill and Kemp’s Ridley turtles on rarely nest in Florida.
Sea Turtle Nesting
Each turtle can deposit around 100 golf-ball sized eggs when they nest. Turtles are known to gently cover the eggs with sand and then spread the sand over a wide area. This helps to protect the eggs and hide the exact location of the egg chamber to potential predators. These mothers then leave the nest and re-enter the water. They do not stay to nurture their hatchlings and they often never see the nest site again. Once the eggs are layed, it will be about 45-55 days until the eggs hatch.
So how are these nests protected?
Here in Broward County and Palm Beach Counties, the eggs are either left to incubate naturally or are relocated to a safer area of the beach. Local agencies and volunteers do their best to identify and mark these nests to keep them safe and warn those visiting the beach areas.
Some of the nests are relocated because of extensive of the development or traffic on our beaches and the bright lights from condos, streets, and highway traffic. Often the light from surrounding real estate will draw young hatchlings away from the water and endanger them even further. If artificial lights are lighting the beach, the hatchlings will be disoriented, travel in the wrong direction, be more susceptible to local predators, and possibly never make it to the water. Local cities have now replaces lighting with special lighting that is more “sea turtle friendly.’
The relocation process serves to protect the emerging hatchlings so they can exit the nest and are able to make their way down the beach to the water on their own. Once in the water the hatchlings swim directly out to sea. They face a huge struggle to survive to adulthood. In fact, it is estimated that only one in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to become a reproductive adult sea turtle.
DID YOU KNOW? Broward County had a record-breaking sea turtle nesting season in 2016 with a total of 3,567 nests laid overall, making it the highest year on record since the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program (BCSTCP) began counting nests in 1981. (Source Broward.org)
Despite the growing numbers of nesters in the past year, over the past 100 years, sea turtle numbers have been greatly reduced and all species are in danger of extinction.
Why turtles are in danger of extinction?
- They have been hunted for their meat and eggs.
- With increasing populations near beach areas, there is a loss of safe nesting habitats.
- Ocean pollution
- Artificial lighting causes hatchlings to move away from the water and toward the brightest direction. Without this artificial light, the only light is the moon that sits in the sky over the ocean, directing hatchlings to the water.
- Other dangers include obstructions on beaches that can block their path to the sea, and predators such as raccoons, dogs, and fire ants.
How you can help:
- Level sand castles and fill any holes dug during the day.
- Never buy products made from sea turtles, including meat, soups, shell jewelry, or other items.
- When fishing, remove fishing line and other plastic things that may harm turtles ( ie. 6 pack plastic holders).
- When diving or snorkeling, if you see floating debris, pick it up and stick it in your BCD to throw away later.
- If you live near a beach, minimize beachfront lighting during the sea turtle nesting season by turning off, shielding, or redirecting lights.
- Close blinds and draperies in oceanfront condos, houses or hotel rooms at night during the nesting season to keep indoor lighting from reaching the beach.
- Do not construct campfires on the beach. Sea turtle hatchlings can be attracted to the light emitted by campfires.
- Use your natural vision when walking on the beach at night. The use of flashlights and flash photography can deter turtles from coming ashore to nest or cause them to abort nesting attempts entirely.
- If you encounter a turtle on the beach at night, remain quiet, still, and at a distance. Disturbing a turtle may frighten them and they may return to the ocean without nesting.
- Leave the tracks left by turtles undisturbed and in place. During nesting season, researchers use the tracks to identify the species of turtle that nested and to find and mark the nests for protection.
- Properly dispose of your garbage in a trash receptacle. Turtles may mistake plastic bags, styrofoam, and trash floating in the water as food and can die when this trash blocks their intestines.
- Do not release helium balloons near waterways. Like plastic trash, balloons end up in the ocean, especially when released near the coast. Sea turtles mistakenly eat the balloons and die.
- Remove recreational equipment, such as lounge chairs, cabanas, umbrellas, and boats, from the beach at night. Their presence can deter nesting attempts and create obstacles that interfere with the seaward journey of hatchlings.
- Protect beach vegetation that stabilizes sand and the natural coastline which provides areas for sea turtles to nest.
- When boating, stay alert and avoid sea turtles. Propeller and collision impacts from boats and ships can result in injury and death of sea turtles.
Get a Glimpse:
In the water
Island Water Sports employee David Joy enjoys free diving and photography during his off hours. He seems to see our little natives on a weekly basis right off of our local beach. David’s favorite spots usually lie between the Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier and Boca Raton Inlet. Check out his instagram at Instagram.com/DavidJoyPhoto to see these amazing photos and videos.
Grab a paddleboard on a flatter day during turtle season and you may just grab a glimpse of a turtle coasting beneath the surface. Stop in Island Water Sports to rent a paddleboard and explore. First time on a board? There are often sightings on Saturdays during Island Camp’s Free SUP and surf lessons .
SHOW YOUR LOVE FOR SEA TURTLES
Shop some of our favorites:
Get a glimpse:
Sea Turtle Walks & Releases
Getting a chance to see a Florida sea turtle up close takes some planning but it will be an experience that you will not forget. Our local park, Gumbo Limbo, has been hosting sea turtle walks for decades. This local park exists to increase public awareness of coastal and marine ecosystems through research, education, preservation, and conservation. This park is free to the public but accepts donations. A visit will enable you to learn everything you have wanted to know about sea turtle and our other local marine life. You will see turtles in their natural habitat, visit the turtle hospital and rehabilitation unit and even see a turtle hatchery first hand.
Plan Your Visit
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
1801 North Ocean Boulevard
Boca Raton, FL 33432
phone: (561) 544-8605
fax: (561) 544-8617
Hours & Admission
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and Property is open:
Monday – Saturday, 9 AM – 4 PM
Sunday, 12 PM – 4 PM
New Year’s Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving Day, & Christmas Day
Suggested $5.00 donation per person
Click here for a map of the property
Gumbo Limbo Turtle Walks for 2017
Gumbo Limbo offers but Turtle Walks and Hatching release programs. Advanced reservations are required and they do sell out. Go to Gumbo Limbo’s website for more info. Cost is $10 for Members and $17 for General Reservations.
- Turtle Walks
- WHAT? A fun, educational night program about sea turtles beginning in Gumbo Limbo’s classroom, followed by an ecology walk along the beach… and the chance to see a nesting loggerhead sea turtle!
- WHO? Children must be at least 8 years old. Minors under the age of 18 must attend with an adult.
- WHEN? Thurs. nights, May 18, 25; and every Tues, Wed, and Thurs night from June 5-July 13 (no program July 4). Doors open at 8:30 and the program will start promptly at 8:45 PM. The program ends after one loggerhead is seen (not guaranteed), or at 12:00 AM, whichever occurs first.
- Hatchling Release
- WHAT? An exciting and unique program about sea turtles beginning in Gumbo Limbo’s classroom, followed by a trip to the beach to watch Gumbo Limbo Staff release baby sea turtles into the ocean!
- WHO? Hatchling Releases are for all ages. Minors under the age of 18 must attend with an adult.
- WHEN? Mon, Tues, Wed, and Thurs nights (no program Sept 4): July 17-Aug 10, 8:00–9:30 PM, Aug 14-Sept 7, 7:30–9:00 PM. Doors open 15 minutes before program start time.
Learn More About Sea Turtles
Check out these amazing links to learn more about sea turtles