By County Commissioner Steven Abrams
BOCA RATON — Did you know Palm Beach County beaches are some of the most densely nested beaches by
sea turtles in the nation? Nesting on our beaches begins as early as March by three different species of sea turtles, including the loggerhead, green and leatherback. Early nesters are usually leatherbacks with the more numerous loggerheads arriving in significant numbers in May.
Nesting continues through August and tapers off in early September. The female sea turtle crawls
ashore at night to dig a nest, deposit her eggs, cover the nest and return to the water. While on the beach, sea turtles are timid and vulnerable and can be easily frightened away if disturbed. It takes between one to
three hours for the female turtle to lay between 80-120 ping pong ball-sized eggs.
The nests are located approximately 18 inches below the surface, and are generally found above the high tide line on the dry beach. Eggs and nests must remain undisturbed in the warm sand for 47-60 days before the turtles hatch. The majority of the hatching occurs in July through September and hatchlings usually emerge from their nests as a group at night. In a natural situation, they crawl down the beach to the water where they must swim for many hours to reach the open sea.
Unfortunately, thousands of hatchlings die every year in their attempt to reach the water. Instinctively, sea turtles follow the natural light reflected on the water by the moon. However, they become disoriented by
artificial light (i.e., residential, commercial, street, cars, etc.) and die from exhaustion, dehydration and predators.
The county’s Environmental Resource Management has a number of researchers, volunteer groups and agencies monitoring sea turtle nesting. Recent findings reported a 40 percent increase in loggerhead sea turtle nesting in a number of area beaches.
Disorientation reports (due to artificial lighting) are increasing and staff is currently conducting
night-time lighting surveys to notify coastal property owners of non-compliant lights.
Tips on How to Help Sea Turtles Survive
- Do not disturb or handle sea turtles, their eggs or their nests. All are violations of state and federal
- Report all dead, injured or stranded turtles and hatchlings or anyone harassing them to 1-888-404-3922
(Florida Fish & Wildlife).
- Prevent all lights from illuminating or being visible from the beach including security lights, balcony and porch lights, flashlights and car headlights.
- Reduce litter and marine debris by disposing of your trash properly and picking up beach debris.