Sea Turtles- Respect the Locals
Respect the locals! If you’re a native to Amelia Island, or even just passing through, you may have realized that we are very into our sea turtle population. There are five turtle species that can be found in Florida and all are listed as endangered or threatened: Hawksbill, Kemp's Ridley, Loggerhead, Leatherback, and Green. With anywhere from 30,000-90,000 nests laid annually, ninety percent of sea turtle nests in the U.S. are laid in Florida. So needless to say, we take our sea turtles very seriously!
When is nesting season? Sea Turtle nesting season begins May 1st and continues through October 31st. Females nest every two to three years, laying several nests in a season. After digging a hole and depositing about 80 -120 eggs, the females fill in the hole with sand and camouflage the nest before returning to sea. The eggs have an incubation period of 50-60 days before hatching.
What to do if I see a sea turtle nesting? Stay behind her at a distance and remain quiet. Do not use any lights, including flashlights or flash photography. In case it needs to be said, do not touch the sea turtle! Any distractions may frighten or disorient her causing her to return to the sea prematurely before completing the nesting process. After the incubation period, hatchlings can emerge from a nest anytime within a ten day period, and at anytime from sunset to sun up. If you are to witness hatchlings returning to the ocean, do not interfere, and know that you are a chosen one that gets to witness this magical experience.
How can I help? Here are just a few simple tips that make a large impact:
- Remove all beach furniture at night.
- Turn off porch and outdoor lights at night during turtle season.
- Fill in holes dug on the beach during the day.
- Do not leave fishing line behind. Dispose of line responsibly.
- Reduce the amount of plastic garbage you produce.
- Oppose events that release balloons.
Locally we have our own volunteer group, Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch, who conduct turtle walks to look for and observe sea turtles nesting. AISTW survey the beach at daybreak each morning looking for signs that a turtle came ashore during the night. They keep records of the nests, hatchlings and perform nest excavation after the hatchlings have emerged. We are so thankful for all that they do! And we know it takes a village, so we hope you find this information helpful so we can all do our part!