From May until October of every year, it is nesting season for sea turtles, which come up on to Siesta Key beach (and others around southern Florida) in the darkness to lay their eggs. It takes approximately 60 days from the time the eggs are laid until the baby sea turtles hatch. Many of the turtles are loggerhead turtles, whose shells can be a habitat for as many as 100 other species of plants and animals (source: http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/loggerhead-turtle).
As you walk on the beach during the sea turtle nesting season, you will likely see small areas roped off by the Mote Marine Sea Turtle Patrol, a group of scientists, interns and volunteers who monitor the area’s beaches to protect sea turtle nests. Sea turtles have existed in the earth’s oceans for more than a 100 million years, but according to both the Mote Marine Laboratory and the WWF, sea turtles are an endangered species. It is estimated that only one in 1,000 survives to adulthood to reproduce.
There are some easy things that you and all visitors to Siesta Key’s beautiful beach can do to help protect the sea turtles:
i) keep a distance from any nesting turtles or hatchlings you may see. Note that sea turtles are protected by law and any interference is subject to penalty.
ii) keep the beach dark during nighttime hours during nesting season. Do not use flashlights on the beach and, if your apartment fronts onto the beach, use the curtains. Light discourages the female turtles from nesting, or nesting in areas that will be best for the survival of the hatchlings. Hatchlings, meanwhile, will head toward the light and away from the sea where they need to go to survive.
iii) please do not leave any garbage on the beach, such as plastic bags and bottle tops. Turtles can mistake these for food and will die if they ingest the plastic.
iv) fill in any holes that may trap hatchlings trying to reach the sea.
v) if you find an injured or disoriented hatchling or turtle, contact the Mote.
To learn more about these magnificent animals and the other species with whom we share the beach and the ocean, visit the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium website at http://www.mote.org or, better yet, visit the Aquarium in person to see sea turtles up close, along with other marine wildlife. The exhibits are of interest to adults and children alike.
The Mote Marine Laboratory also runs a hatchling and a sea turtle hospital and does important scientific research and conservancy work.
We share the beach with other living creatures who are important to biodiversity and to the ecological balance of the oceans. It is important that we are all respectful of them.