About Sea Turtles
Sea turtles are large air-breathing reptilies remarkably adapted to life at sea. Their streamlined shell and powerful front limbs enable them to swim hundreds of miles to feed or nest. It s unknown what senses and environmental cues sea turtles use for navigation, but current theories include their well developed sense of smell and the use of the Earth’s magnetic field.
Female sea turtles usually nest at night betweeen the months of May and August. Hatchlings will continue to emerge from these nests through October. It takes 1 to 3 hours for a female to lay a nest of approximately 100 eggs. A single female may nest up to eight times in a season, at approximately 14-day intervals. It is believed that individual females reproduce at intervals of 2-3 years. The eggs incubate in the warm sand and the female never visits her nest again.
After incubating for about 2 months, the 2-inch long turtles hatch — erupting as a group from their nest in the cool of the night and heading for the sea. Hatchlings swim offshore to live for several years in floating seaweed drifting along the edges of ocean currents. Eventually, the young turtles take up residence in coastal waters. Only a few hatchings survive to reach maturity — which, for most species, is believed to be 20 to 30 years of age.
Remember, Sea Turtles Are Protected by Law
The Charlotte County Board of Country Commissioners has adopted and enforces Sea Turtle Protection Ordinance 89-31. For dwellings and structures developed after May 8, 1989, floodlights and spotlights visible from the beach, are prohibited. Existing developments must shield or screen lights so that they are not visible from the beach, or must turn them off at sunset each night of the nesting season. Interfering with eggs, hatchlings, or adult turtles is a federal offense punished by imprisonment and/or fines up to $25,000.
What’s the Problem with Beach Lighting?
Sea turtle hatchlings emerge from their underground nests in the cool of the of the night. They must make their way to the water quickly or risk dehydration and predation. Hatchlings find the water by orienting themselves to the brightest and most open horizon — which, under natural conditions, will be the Gulf of Mexico. In the presence of artificial light, hatchlings become confused and disoriented and wander away from the Gulf, towards artificial lighting. Lost and disoriented, the hatchlings soon die from dehydration, heat exhaustion or are crushed on nearby streets. Under natural conditions, hatchlings quickly scurry toward the safety of the Gulf. Artificial lights attract hatchlings away from the Gulf, jeopardizing their survival.
You Can Help!
Turn off all lights that shine on the beach or are visible on the beach from sunset to sunrise during nesting season. It is also important to remember to close blinds and curtains so that interior lighting is not visable on the beach per county ordinance– May 1 to October 31. If you see a female turtle crawling out of the Gulf or digging a nest, remain quietyly in the dark at a distance. Allow her to return safely to the sea. Please do not use flashlights or build fires on the beach from May through October. Leave nests, eggs, and hatchlings undisturbed. Place trash in proper receptacles and remove all beach furniture including umbrellas and beach towels from the beach where it can entrap and obstruct the path of hatchlings. Keep pets under control on the beach. Pets can dig up nests, eat hatchlings, and frighten away nesting females.