9.5 miles of beach monitored by Loggerhead Marinelife Center supports nearly five percent of the world’s loggerhead sea turtle nests
Palm Beach County is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches attracting international visitors – some with feet, and thousands with flippers! Sea turtle nesting season will officially begin this Wednesday, March 1 in Palm Beach County, so it is time to pay special attention to our beautiful beaches – home to some of the world’s most critical sea turtle nesting habitat.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center researchers monitor a 9.5-mile stretch of beach from the northern Palm Beach County line (Jupiter Island) south to the northern border of John D. MacArthur Beach State Park. In 2016, the Center documented over 16,000 nests on that stretch, a record-breaking nesting year for loggerhead sea turtles. That’s one nest every three feet and comprises approximately five percent of the world’s total loggerhead sea turtle nests. The same stretch of beach also accounts for 15 percent of Florida’s leatherback nests (2016) and 13 percent of Florida’s green sea turtle nests (2016).
“We are fortunate to study on one of the world’s most important sea turtle nesting beaches,” said Dr. Justin Perrault, LMC’s associate director of research. “In addition to day-to-day monitoring, this year we are working on several research projects, collecting various samples to better understand local sea turtle populations and the impact humans have on them. We’re hopeful that we can use our findings to better protect sea turtles, and ultimately, our marine ecosystems.”
Nesting season runs through Oct. 31 in Palm Beach County. It is critical to protect our beaches every day – not just when nesting season prevails.
“Modern sea turtles evolved around 110 million years ago, and are some of the most fascinating creatures,” said Jack E. Lighton, LMC’s president & CEO. “Sea turtles tell us the health of our ocean; the ocean tells us the health of our planet. We are honored to advocate for sea turtles and the ocean and beaches they call home. We invite our community to join in our efforts.”
Taking a few easy steps can help ensure the safety of nesting females and hatchlings during the season:
- Throw away debris left behind on the beach
- Fill in holes in the sand, knock down sand castles and remove foreign objects that may obstruct a sea turtle’s path to and from the ocean
- If you come across a nesting sea turtle, observe at a distance from behind
- Look out for disoriented hatchlings on trails and roads near the beach
- Keep your lights out near the beach and install sea turtle-friendly lighting where needed
- Bring weak or disoriented hatchlings to Loggerhead Marinelife Center. They can be placed in the 24-hour drop-off cooler located outside the Center’s entrance (14200 US Highway One, Juno Beach, FL 33408)
- Interact with or disrupt a nesting sea turtle – it is illegal
- Release balloons (deflated ones resemble jellyfish, a common prey item for sea turtles)
- Use lighting on the beach at night including flashlights, lanterns, flash photography and cell phones
- Touch hatchlings on their way to the ocean
- Take or touch empty egg shells, or exposed, un-hatched eggs
- Harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings
- Use shovels to dig on the beach during nesting season
It is illegal to harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings, which are protected by the US Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida Statute Chapter 370. For more information about sea turtle nesting, please visit www.marinelife.org/nesting or www.marinelife.org/research.
Members of the media interested in arranging an interview with one of LMC’s researchers about nesting season can contact Hannah Deadman, public relations & communications coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (561) 627-8280 ext. 124.