All You Need to Know About Sea Turtle Nesting Season!
Sea turtle nesting season extends from May 1 through Oct. 31. Beginning April 15, Clearwater Marine Aquarium patrols approximately 13 miles of beach along North Pinellas County.
How are sea turtle nests located?
Our morning patrols reach the beach just before sunrise 7 days a week. Initially, our teams of volunteers, staff and interns search along the high tide line for evidence of sea turtle nesting, namely marks in the sand left by crawling females. Once tracks are located, we determine whether there is a nest present or if it was a non-nesting emergence, AKA false crawl. We mark the nests and collect various measurements from the nest site in order to properly monitor it throughout the season.
How are sea turtle nests monitored?
We primarily observe loggerhead sea turtle nesting activity in Pinellas County. Loggerhead incubation times range between 45 and 65 days, so we begin to look for hatching activity 45 days after our first nest discovery. Hatching activity is identified by tracks emerging from the nest sites. After a nest has hatched we wait at least 72 hours then excavate the nest and do an inventory of its contents to determine hatching success.
When are sea turtle nests found?
Generally, we find our first nest of the season in early to mid-May and the females will continue nesting until the middle of August.
What kind of sea turtle nests are found?
Primarily, we encounter loggerheads nesting on our beaches but on rare occasions have encountered Kemp’s ridleys or green sea turtles.
What does the sea turtle nesting team report?
We report our annual nesting data to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Pinellas County. To FWC, we report false crawls, disorientation events, obstruction events, predation and vandalism. To the county, we also include weekly escarpment surveys and lighting surveys.
How many nests were reported during the 2017 nesting season?
Countywide in 2017, 667 loggerhead nests were reported.
How You Can Help
Use Sea Turtle-Friendly Lighting
If you must use lights near nesting beaches, use amber or red lightbulbs that have long-wavelength light (570 nanometers or longer). Cover or shield light fixtures and keep them directed down and low to the ground whenever possible.
Under natural conditions, hatchlings and adult use brightness to guide them to the water from the beach. The reflection of the moon and stars over the water usually creates the brightest horizon, but on developed beaches, lots of artificial light (street lights, exterior/interior lights on homes, decorative lighting, etc.) confuse the turtle and cause them to think that those sources of light are where the water is. They crawl toward that light wasting precious energy they need to reach the ocean.
For nesting females, artificial lights can deter them from emerging onto a beach at all, forcing them to select less optimal nesting sites to deposit their clutch.
Turn out unnecessary beach lights to help prevent disorientation of female sea turtles and hatchlings. Close your curtains and be mindful of bright lights shining on the beach. Keep it dark!
Knock down sand castles and fill in sand pits. This helps to eliminate the challenges the baby hatchlings must cross on their way to the shoreline. Sandpits can be like the Grand Canyon and sand castles like Mount Everest to tiny baby sea turtles. Clear the way!
Keep the Beach Clean
Picking up trash eliminates items that both hatchlings and adults may become entangled in. Something as small as a bottle top or as large as unwanted beach furniture can pose potential problems, leading to both false crawls and disorientation. Keep it clean!
All marine turtle footage taken in Florida was obtained with the approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) under conditions not harmful to marine turtles. Footage was acquired while conducting authorized conservation activities pursuant to FWC MTP-16-013.