Published on May 3rd, 2013 | by NSB Observer0
Sea Turtles Return to the Shores
Turtle nesting season started May 1, and that means hundreds of sea turtles will be emerging from the surf to lay eggs on the beach in the next few months.
Volusia County’s Environmental Management Division encourages residents, visitors and business owners to take a proactive role in ensuring a safe and productive nesting season.
Florida’s east coast is one of two major nesting sites in the world for the loggerhead sea turtle. Green and leatherback sea turtle nests also are found here, although they are not as common as loggerhead nests.
The 2012 season saw a record high with 919 nests laid on county beaches, of those, 885 were loggerhead nests. The county’s average is around 480 sea turtle nests per season.
“We don’t know what to expect for 2013, but always hope for a successful season for nesting turtles,” said Jennifer Winters, Volusia County’s sea turtle Habitat Conservation Plan program manager. “Once eggs are laid in a new nest, it takes approximately 48 – 60 days until they will hatch. Continued survival of these species depends on all beach guests, and beachfront property owners, to do what they can to protect the beach habitat.”
Volusia County manages and enforces the county sea turtle lighting ordinance. The county works with property owners throughout the year to reduce artificial light on the beach. At night, the females emerging from the ocean to lay eggs prefer dark, quiet areas to nest. Bright artificial lights can deter them from nesting and can confuse hatchling turtles, leading them away from the ocean.
“Unfortunately, hatchling sea turtles are often led into danger, like into streets and storm drains, when artificial lighting is seen near a nest,” said Winters.
Since 2009, Volusia County has shielded more than 130 street lights, that reduce the amount of light reaching the sand. In 2012, the county was awarded enough money from the Sea Turtle License Plate Grant Program to shield 35 street lights between Ormond Beach’s Andy Romano Beachfront Park and the 1600 block of Oceanshore Boulevard. The grant funds were awarded by the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the oldest nonprofit organization established to protect sea turtles in the world.
“Through our shielding efforts, we have been able to set an example for our beachside owners,” said Winters. “It is possible to safely light properties and roads without turning off lights and losing the safety aspect of having light in needed locations. The key is to find the right light fixture for the right location on a property. The county has many resources available to assist property owners in making safe and compliant choices in lighting.”
Property owners along the coast should make sure their light fixtures are positioned, shielded or modified so they are not visible by a person standing on the beach. It also is important to eliminate the effect of interior lights shining through doors and windows onto the beach.
There are several ways to reduce the amount of light coming from inside a home or business. These include moving lamps and other moveable fixtures away from windows, using blinds and curtains to block lights, and turning off unnecessary lights. Property owners should recheck their lighting every year. The beach elevation changes frequently, especially after storms, and interior lights that were in compliance last year may need to be adjusted to be in compliance this year.
In addition to making lighting adjustments, there are many ways to help sea turtles, beach wildlife and the coastal environment:
- Dispose of trash and recyclables in the proper containers. Sea turtles and other wildlife can swallow or get entangled in trash. Trash also attracts predators.
- If you see a sea turtle nesting or a nest hatching, stand far back and observe quietly. Sea turtles are protected by state and federal laws and should not be harassed. Lights, quick movements and loud voices can deter nesting activity.
- When driving at the beach, use the designated traffic lanes. Beach driving access hours are from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. through the season, tide permitting.
- Use dune walkovers and keep beach activities off the dunes and vegetation to minimize harm to sea turtle nesting habitat.
- When leaving the beach, take all of your beach equipment. Flatten sandcastles and fill your holes. These can be obstacles to nesting turtles, hatchlings emerging from their nests, and humans walking on the beach.