Sea Turtle Awareness ~ The Southern Scoop’s Beach Tip of the Month
Thank you for doing your part by reading the Southern Scoop’s Beach Tip of the Month – sea turtle awareness! The Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) is an oceanic turtle distributed throughout the world. These beautiful creatures are found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, classifies the Loggerhead Sea Turtle as “Vulnerable, Threatened.” Sea turtle nesting season takes place from May 1st – October 31st, so be extra careful when visiting the beaches during this time!
Unfortunately, the Loggerhead is often a by-catch of fishing gear, accounting for many deaths within the species. Loss of nesting habitats across several countries as a result of development and human interference is also, unfortunately, a critical component of their decline. To restore their numbers will require international coordination and cooperation, so let’s get started on how we can do our part in Northwest Florida and Coastal Alabama! After all, 90% of all sea turtle nesting in the United States occurs in Florida.
…So what can I do?
You can make a difference! Let’s start with a couple of basic pieces of information which can make a tremendous impact on these creatures’ lives.
Holes and sandcastles
These can create problems for both female Loggerheads attempting to leave and return the ocean during nesting season, and hatchlings. The animals can fall into the holes and be unable to get out, and this especially applies to the hatchlings who are significantly smaller thus holes present an even larger problem. Additionally, mortality among newly hatched sea turtles is already high due to predation. Sandcastles present a problem because they create obstacles to and from the ocean. The ocean is safety to hatchlings to avoid predators on land waiting for them to hatch. Without flat land on the beach, the female sea turtle attempting to lay her eggs will return to the ocean.
What can you do? Fill in any holes you dig or even better, don’t dig them. You could be saving an entire generation of sea turtles! Additionally, knock down any sandcastles, and keep the beach as flat as it was before you got there. If someone else left a sandcastle up or a hole unfilled, do a little extra and save a sea turtle.
Mind the signs!
When you’re out and about on the beach, you may see yellow or brightly colored signs warning not to disturb sea turtle nests. These signs are up for a good reason, and it’s best to follow them. Individuals who disturb sea turtle nests are subject to fines (or worse!) from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission – that would certainly put a damper on your beach vacation!
Did you know light pollution causes disorientation in nesting female sea turtles and hatchlings? This is a result of both architectural lighting on the exterior of buildings, and white-light flashlights. For reasons currently unknown, sometimes sea turtles will orient themselves based on light direction, so not only are female sea turtles being cued in the wrong directions by artificial lighting, but sea turtle hatchlings are also going in the wrong directions.
What can you do? Use turtle-safe flashlights which are red, and never use white-light flashlights on the beach. You can even download “Red Flashlight” Apps on the Apple Store and Google Play. Remember, you could be saving dozens of hatchling sea turtles by just using a turtle-safe flashlight!
We hope you like the beach tip we’ve brought you this month. Since we’ve got you covered from Panama City, Florida to Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan Alabama, make sure to browse on over to our events page to find out about what’s happening in your vacation area! Thank you for being a part of the Southern family, we’ll see you next month with another beach or travel tip!