Here in South Carolina, sea turtle nesting season runs from May 1 until Oct. 31 every year. Further south along the east coast the nesting season starts as early as March 1. Perhaps you’ve seen the marked nests along the sand dune line of your favorite beaches. Marked with stakes, orange tape and yellow signs, people are reminded to not disturb the nests and turn out their lights at night. There are Federal and State laws – sea turtles are a protected species. Violation of these laws are punishable.
Why do we care?
“Sea turtles have many recognized roles in the evolution and maintenance of the structure and dynamics of marine ecosystems; they are an integral part of the interspecific interactions in marine ecosystems as prey, consumer, competitor, and host. They also serve as significant conduits of nutrient and energy transfer within and among ecosystems; and can also substantially modify the physical structure of marine ecosystems.” For more information on why sea turtles are vital to our oceans, follow this link:
But what many people do not realize is that it is not enough to just steer clear of the nests and turn your lights out. Sea turtles forage for food while in the water, and floating garbage such as plastic bags and pieces of micro plastic can be ingested along with the algae, sea grasses and seaweed that make up their diet.
Here are a few rules for leaving the beach a turtle friendly environment. Keeping the beach open and clean is another way to keep sea turtles safe. You should dispose of all trash properly, fill in holes in the sand, and remove all toys, chairs, and boats before leaving. In the absence of a clear path to their nests and back to the ocean, turtles may become trapped.
Learn more about how you can help protect sea turtle nests:
For parents, use this information as a teachable moment when you visit the beach. Stop by the nests and tell your children what they are and why the nests need to be protected. Make sure your children clean up the beach before leaving for the day. Fill in the holes they have dug and collect all garbage to take home for disposal.
The WWF offers an “Adopt a Sea Turtle” program. Check it out at this link:
Or, if you live in South Carolina and want to help a local (Hilton Head, SC) group:
Happy Beach Going!