On the beach
Sea turtle nesting season takes place from May 1-Oct. 31 on Southwest Florida beaches. On nesting beaches, light from waterfront properties can disorient nesting female turtles and their young, which emerge at night and use dim natural light to find the sea. Also, beach furniture, trash and other obstacles can impede sea turtles and their young.
Residents should go out to the beach at night and identify what lights on their property are visible from the beach. If the lights are not needed for safety, simply turn them off. If the lights cannot be turned off, shield, redirect or lower the height of the lights so they are no longer visible from the beach.
Replace problematic lights with turtle-friendly fixtures designed to direct light where you need it and away from the beach. Use red or amber LED bulbs (which are less disruptive to nesting sea turtles and hatchlings) in shielded, downward directed turtle-friendly fixtures. You should also replace high-pressure sodium vapor lights with low-pressure sodium lights. Reduce interior lighting problems by applying window tint at a 15% light transmittance level, or close opaque curtains of blinds after dark to reduce the amount of visible light on the beach. Only light for safety, and avoid decorative or uplights during the nesting and hatchling season.
Here are some additional “do and don’t” tips from Mote Marine Laboratory to keep our beaches turtle-friendly:
- DO stay away from sea turtle nests marked with yellow stakes and tape, and seabird nesting zones that are bounded by ropes.
- DO remain quiet and observe from a distance if you encounter a nesting sea turtle or hatchlings
- DO close drapes after dark and stack beach furniture at the dune line or, ideally, remove it from the beach
- DO fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water.
- DON’T approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles.
- DON’T use flashlights, head lamps or fishing lamps on the beach.
- DON’T encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water.
- DON’T use fireworks on the beach.
- DON’T walk dogs on any Sarasota County beach other than Brohard Paw Park in Venice. There, dogs must be leashed or under voice control, according to county ordinances.
On the water
- Follow Coast Guard-approved safe boating guidelines and use vigilance to avoid striking sea turtles and other large marine life.
- Be sure to stow trash and line when under way. Marine debris that accidentally blows overboard or out of a truck can become ingested by or entangled around marine life.
- Wear polarized sunglasses to better see marine life in your path.
If you see sea turtle hatchlings that are not making their way to the water or if you notice any unusual sea turtle nesting activity, please call Mote Marine's sea turtle program at 941-388-4331 for instructions.
To report a stranded sea turtle or other marine life within coastal Southwest Florida, please call the Stranding Investigations Program's 24-hour pager at 941-988-0212.