Juno Beach, FL – Researchers at Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) are keeping a watchful eye for the return of sea turtle nesting season in Palm Beach County and have kicked-off its “Respect the Locals” awareness campaign. Between March 1 and October 31, sea turtles nest on the 9.5-mile stretch of beach that LMC monitors, which spans from the northern Palm Beach County line to the northern boundary of John D. MacArthur Beach State Park. Last year, the Center documented 16,935 sea turtle nests totaling 286 leatherback, 13,059 loggerhead and 3,590 green sea turtle nests. Additionally, it’s estimated that 800,000 hatchlings were produced from the 2020 nesting season alone.
However, the previous nesting season had some advantages due to temporary beach closures. According to LMC data, loggerhead nesting success on Juno Beach was 60 percent when they first arrived in April during closures. Whereas nesting success dropped to 48 percent when beaches reopened. In short, the data showed that there were a smaller proportion of false crawls during the shutdown, which is when nesting females crawl onto the beach and return to the water without laying eggs.
As mothers return, it’s especially important to remind beachgoers of best practices during the season. This includes:
· Keeping your distance: Never approach or touch a nesting sea turtle. Keep your distance, always stay out of the line of sight, remain quiet and keep all lights off (including flash photography and cell phones). Touching, prodding or shining lights may cause her to not lay eggs or disturb her and affect how well she covers and camouflages the nest.
· Letting hatchlings emerge: If you see hatchlings on the beach, allow them to crawl to the ocean on their own. Do not remove or dig hatchlings out of a nest. Removing sand above the nest will make it more difficult for the hatchlings to emerge.
· Turning off lights: Keep lights off at your house while not in use and close your blinds at night to avoid adding to the overall glow. Sea turtles crawl towards the brightest horizon, and artificial lighting can cause them to disorient.
· Filling in your holes: Fill in all holes and knock over sand castles so that nesting turtles and hatchlings do not fall into them and are not hindered as they crawl on the beach.
· Leaving it behind: Remove obstacles such as beach chairs, tables, water-sport equipment and umbrellas before dark. A turtle nests every three to four feet. Therefore, there are high chances of puncturing sea turtle nests or eggs when umbrellas are staked into the ground.
· Digging holes: Avoid digging holes or using shovels in order to not interfere with incubating sea turtle nests.
· Being a litterbug: Do not leave any trash behind. Trash can hinder nesting and hatchling turtles from crawling to and from the beach. Also, sea turtles may accidentally ingest trash left behind.
· Releasing balloons: Don’t release balloons, they travel far distances and can be eaten by sea turtles and other marine organisms.
· Hosting bonfires: Bonfires may be accidentally situated on a nesting site. Also, hatchlings can often be lured or disoriented by light emitted by fires.
“It’s apparent that the temporary beach closures from last season led to fewer obstructions and human interactions for nesting sea turtles,” said Dr. Justin Perrault, LMC’s Director of Research. “However, we can’t rely on closures to do the work for us. Rather, it’s important for us to follow proven methods that contribute to a successful nesting season. ”
During periods of heavier wind or wave action on Florida’s coastline, sea turtle eggs may become exposed. LMC advises beachgoers to leave exposed eggs and nests untouched; disoriented hatchlings should be brought to the Center’s 24-hour hatchling rescue cooler, which is located at the entrance of the center. Threatened and endangered hatchlings should be transported with extreme care, in a bucket with damp sand and no water, to prevent accidental drowning.
If you discover a sick, injured or stranded sea turtle, please call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (*FWC) or LMC’s Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at 561-603-0211.
Want to help protect nesting and hatching sea turtles this season? Use the #respectthelocals and #loggerheadmarinelifecenter hashtags to keep social media users informed and engaged this nesting season. Follow LMC’s social media and website for Respect the Locals information, materials, and merchandise.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center
Loggerhead Marinelife Center (LMC) is a nonprofit sea turtle research, rehabilitation and educational institution that promotes conservation of ocean ecosystems with a focus on threatened and endangered sea turtles. The Center features an on-site hospital, research laboratory, educational exhibits and aquariums, and also operates the Juno Beach Pier, which hosts world-class angling and sightseeing. Situated on one of the world’s most important sea turtle nesting beaches, Loggerhead Marinelife Center is open daily and hosts over 350,000 guests free-of-charge each year. The Center’s conservation team works with 90 local and international organizations across six continents to form partnerships and share conservation initiatives and best practices that are core to its mission of ocean conservation. The Center is expanding and has launched its Waves of Progress capital expansion campaign, designed to accelerate and amplify LMC’s conservation and education impact. When complete, the facility will offer one of the world’s most advanced and unique experiences for guests and scientific partners. For more information, visit www.marinelife.org or call (561) 627-8280.
Lauren Eissey, Public Relations and Engagement Specialist
Additional photos available upon request.