It’s that time of year when you may be out strolling the beach and stumble upon some turtle tracks in the sand. Or, perhaps you notice a nest containing sea turtle eggs. What should you do? First of all, don’t disturb the nest. Secondly, if the nest is unmarked it’s best to contact the Clearwater Marine Aquarium at 727.441.1790. They can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One of their primary missions is to protect and preserve the local marine wildlife, so they will be glad to be of assistance.
Sea turtle nesting season begins on May 1 and continues through October 31 here on the Gulf Coast. In addition to sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium monitors the nearly 26 miles of coastline in Pinellas County and reports on and monitors the sea turtle nesting activity in the area.
In an effort to protect these sea turtle species from extinction, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium focuses on not only releasing formerly sick and injured sea turtles back into their natural habitat, but also providing protection and monitoring of the species to help ensure that as many hatchlings as possible make it into the Gulf waters. With a combined effort from staff, interns and volunteers, the work entails morning patrols to locate new nesting sites as well as late night patrols to check existing nests for hatchlings. Once tracks are found, the egg cavity can be located and the nest site marked off for further observation and monitoring.
When the eggs in the nests near their hatching time, they are covered with a nest cage and monitored by volunteers from 10p.m. until 2a.m. The cages are used as protection on the Gulf Coast due to the continuing development of the local beaches. The baby sea turtles emerge at night and instinctually head toward the natural light that is reflected from the waters. When the turtles emerge into the cage, the volunteers help to make sure they make it to the water safely and are not distracted by man-made light sources or other obstacles.
The staff and volunteer team of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium have released over 60,350 hatchlings into the Gulf of Mexico since the year 2005. Amazing! The average is 120 nests per season in this area. Each nest contains on average 100 to 110 eggs. To see last year’s sea turtle nest information and locations, click here.
You may wonder if there’s anything else you can do to help protect and nurture the sea turtle nest, eggs and hatchlings during the nesting season. If you live or vacation here in Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores, it helps if you dim or turn off lights at night on or near the beach since artificial light can distract the emerging hatchlings. It also helps to cover up or fill in any deep holes in the sand you dig or happen to come across while enjoying our beaches. They can become an obstacle for emerging hatchlings as well. Picking up any trash or litter that you may find on the beach is of great assistance, too. Don’t forget to contact the aquarium if you find any unmarked nests or eggs.
We thank you for helping us support our local wildlife and marine habitats. We value all of the things that make the Gulf Coast a wonderful place to live and visit, and we know you do too. If you’ve seen a sea turtle nest during your time here in Indian Rocks Beach or Indian Shores, we’d love to hear about it. Our comment section is always open!