It’s shaping up to be an extraordinary year for sea turtles on Fort Myers Beach!
With close to (and perhaps by the time you read this more than) 90 nests already – quite a few beachfront of Sun Palace beach vacation homes – 2017 has already proven to be an exceptional year for sea turtle nesting and hatching.
“We are on a record pace,” said Eve Haverfield of Turtle Time to the Island Sand Paper on July 20. “In 2016, we had 92 total nests on Fort Myers Beach, and this season is already 88!
“This is also true on Bonita Beach, where we already shattered last year’s record of 160 with 192. We are seeing conservation efforts begun in the 1960s and 1970s paying off, as it takes Loggerheads 30 to 50 years to mature and return to the beach of their birth, and these numbers fit the profile and timeline of when numbers should go back up.”
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No one knows, for sure, why the last couple of years have seen an accelerated pace of turtle nesting (except, we hope, because of overall conservation strategies) but with that increased activity also comes the responsibility for us humans to take extra care and caution to give the turtles the space and time to successfully lay eggs and hatch the young.
Without question, however, one of the great sites of nature in Southwest Florida is the annual sea turtle migration and reproduction which takes place on our beaches each year from mid-April through the end of October (sometimes longer).
Turtle Time’s Havefield told the Sand Paper beach dwellers and visitors should be more conscious and intentional about protecting the beach, the turtles’ nesting space.
“So much beach furniture left outside all night that it is ridiculous; we tag it constantly, but see it wash into the Gulf, where it becomes a perfect trap for turtles, so this is very disconcerting,” she told the Sand Paper. “Now that nests are hatching, this is the time to be really serious about monitoring your lights and property. The Town of Fort Myers Beach has a strong code enforcement with hefty fines, but we hope people will want to voluntarily take action to protect the turtles.”
Established in 1989, Turtle Time is a non-profit organization and is the state-permitted monitoring organization for sea turtle activity from Fort Myers Beach to the Lee-Collier County line. Daily patrols during the nesting season are conducted to gather important scientific data about population estimates, distribution of nests, nesting patterns and hatching success rates. Dead or injured sea turtles are examined and dealt with as necessary. The information is transmitted to a national sea turtle stranding network.
In addition to unnecessary human interaction and physical barriers such as beach furniture and sea walls, fishing nets and other debris the greatest interference for turtle nesting comes from lights on houses and hotels and other beachfront structures.
Watch this short video to understand the problem beachfront lighting presents to sea turtle hatchlings:
In addition to our own Turtle Time, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission maintains completed and constantly updated web resources and guidelines for turtle interaction and turtle protection.
Sea turtles are a regional and national treasure and should be enjoy but also protected.
Watch this Turtle Time video of a rescued and rehabilitated Kemp’s Ridley turtle being released back into Pine Island Sound:
Updated : August 23, 2017