Save the Sea Turtles on Florida's Gulf Coast

As the Labor Day holiday approaches, it's a busy time for the Gulf Coast beaches of Florida. The beaches are bustling and are a little more crowded this weekend as people head out to the shores to celebrate the symbolic end of summer. It's especially important during these times to remember that we share the beaches with many other creatures who call the coastline home. The rich, diverse and unique coastal habitat found in our area is a local treasure and needs our assistance in maintaining and preserving it.

Just a reminder thatGulf Coast Sea Turtle it is sea turtle nesting season, which began on May 1 and continues through October 31. Locally in Pinelllas County, the Clearwater Aquarium monitors the 26 miles of coastline and reports (and protects) sea turtle nesting activity in the areabut they need your help, too. If you are out enjoying our beautiful beaches and happen to stumble upon a  sea turtle nest, don't disturb it. If it's 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.

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 nestLoggerhead Sea Turtle 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 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 around 100 to 110 eggs. At the writing of this blog, 225 sea turtle nests have been found in Pinellas County this year thus far. Keep checking back periodically at the aquarium's website to monitor the growing number of found nests and where they're located. Looking at the current numbers, it may be a record year for sea turtle nesting!

So what can you do to help preserve this precious species? In addition to reporting any found nests, here are some other suggestions.
  • Dim or turn off lights at night on or near the beach since artificial light can distract the emerging hatchlings.
  • 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. Loggerhead Sea Turtle Hatchlings
  • Remove tents, toys, and beach gear overnight. Leaving them out could interfere with the nesting mothers coming ashore and/or the emerging hatchlings' journey to the sea.
  • Pick up any trash or litter that you may find on the beach. This is helpfully in protecting many different aquatic species from getting entangled and trapped in the trash, including sea turtles. Plastic bags are especially dangerous to sea turtles because they think they are jellyfish, their main food source, and will attempt to eat them (and then get sick). 
  • Limit the use of fireworks to special occasions. The noise keeps the mother turtles from coming on shore to nest and disturbs the baby turtles during hatching.
  • Adopt a sea turtle nest. Help raise money for the protection of the local sea turtles and receive some really great perks, too. Visit the Clearwater Aquarium's sea turtle adoption page or call for more details.
  • 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 encountered a sea turtle nest during your Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores vacation, we'd love to hear about it. Our comment section is always open. Have a safe and enjoyable Labor Day holiday!

Comment on this post!