Share the Beach with Sea Turtles
Sea turtle nesting season is upon us once again. One of the most exciting events that takes place on our beautiful Gulf Coast is the annual nesting of momma sea turtles and later the precious hatching of baby sea turtle nests, an ancient ritual that has played out on our beaches during the summertime for millions of years.
We’re incredibly lucky that Pensacola Beach is home to four of Florida’s five sea turtle species:
- Kemp’s ridley
Sea turtle nesting season runs from May 1 through the end of October on Pensacola Beach, with the height of the hatching season in August. Every year, mother sea turtles return to the same beaches they were born on to lay their eggs. About 45 to 60 days after a mother sea turtle hauls her heavy body onto our sugar-white beach, digs a hole in the sand with her flippers and lays her eggs, her babies are ready to hatch.
It’s estimated that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings survive to adulthood. With your help, one of those babies will someday return to do the same thing.
Since we all love the beach and all of its critters, there’s an urgent need to learn how we can share it with these amazing creatures and help them thrive so we can continue to enjoy seeing them and ensure they’ll be around for another million years.
Here are some ways you can help save sea turtles:
Share the Beach: Both sea turtles and shorebirds nest on Pensacola Beach during the spring and summer months. If you see a nesting sea turtle; give it space! Stay out of posted nesting areas and keep a respectful distance. Avoid disturbing birds resting on the beach.
Stow It, Don’t Throw It: Keep our beaches clean by throwing trash away in the proper receptacle. Cups, cans and other trash can entangle turtles and birds, causing injury and death. Fishing line and discarded nets can entangle marine life, like dolphins and turtles, making it hard for them to swim and feed normally. And food left on the beach can attract unwanted predators, who may also prey on turtle and shorebird hatchlings.
Leave No Trace: Help keep our beaches obstacle free for nesting and hatchling turtles at night. All personal items — including chairs, tents, umbrellas, toys and water equipment — must be removed from the beach by sunset each day. Items not removed will be picked up by staff and disposed of. Make sure to fill in holes and flatten any sandcastles.
Lights Out: Artificial lighting is currently one of the largest threats to sea turtle populations worldwide.
Bright lights can disturb nesting sea turtles and disorient both adults and hatchlings on the beach. When visiting the beach after dark, keep cell phones and flashlights off. Use a red flashlight or no light at all! For beachfront homes, turn off exterior lights when not in use and keep blinds and curtains shut after sunset.
Don’t Cut the Line: Sea turtles can become accidentally hooked or entangled near fishing piers and other underwater structures. If you hook a turtle from shore, don’t cut the line! It’s important the turtle receive proper veterinarian care. Call the Pier Manager or contact Escambia County Marine Resources at (850) 426-1257 for guidance.
If you notice a sea turtle that appears injured or in danger, contact Escambia County Marine Resources at (850)426-1257. If you see nesting or hatchling turtle, keep a respectful distance, and allow the turtle to behave naturally.
Sea turtle nesting season is a prehistoric ritual still playing out on Pensacola’s beaches every summer. Let’s strive to keep it that way so that future generations get to enjoy them too.