Mary Nelson, Marco Island’s Sea Turtle Lady has been monitoring the sea turtles on Marco’s beaches for over 25 years. According to Mary, last year was a down year. But with the changes made to the beach by the regrade project, she is optimistic that the sea turtles will be willing to nest in those areas.
Mary has been busy since mid-April checking the beaches from South Beach to the end of Sand Dollar Island everyday looking for signs of early arrivals. In the past, we’ve had a nest during the last week of April.
Sea turtles are here, according to Maura Kraus, Principal Environmentalist for Collier County. Naples had its first false crawl on Friday, April 19th on Parkshore Beach. It won’t be long before we see the yellow caution tape cordoning off small sections of Marco’s beach, protecting the sea turtle eggs.
According to the Sea Turtle Conservancy about 90% of all sea turtles nesting in the United States takes place on Florida’s beaches between May 1st and October 31st. A very long time ago, Florida’s beaches were dark and quiet, which was perfect for sea turtle nesting.
Unfortunately, Marco’s beach is now lined with hotels, condos and time shares, and collectively they shine bright artificial lights on the beach. According to Mary Nelson, the number one reason for false crawls are artificial light shining on the beach after 9 PM. If hatchlings veer off the beach, they face a slim chance of survival. Only one in 1,000 hatchlings will make it to maturity.
Mary has noticed more people on the beach at night making noise, using flashlights, flash photography and cell phones. All of these activities can discourage females from coming ashore to nest or cause them to nest in less than ideal locations.
How Can You Help?
- Concessionaires’ equipment needs to be stored off the main beach at night.
- Remove beach chairs and trash from the beach at night.
- After 9 PM, turn off or shield outdoor lights, close drapes/blinds; turn off indoor lights to prevent from shining onto the beach.
- Fill in holes to make it safer for sea turtles.
The loggerhead sea turtle is protected as a Threatened species by the Federal Endangered Species Act and as a federally-designated Threatened Species by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule, and by Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act (379.2431, Florida Statutes).
Save the Date: Beach Clean Up: May 4th at 8 AM at South Beach. Trash is harmful to sea turtles and wildlife.
Sea Turtle Friendly Lighting
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), sea turtle-friendly lighting guidelines can save sea turtle hatchlings:
FWC-approved lighting guidelines may be found at www.myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/sea-turtles/turtles-lights.