Home > Blog > August 2018 > Help Save Endangered Sea Turtles Nesting Along Destin Beaches

Help Save Endangered Sea Turtles Nesting Along Destin Beaches

Sea Turtle Gerdy

Since we are in the midst of sea turtle nesting season, we thought this is a great time to share our recent article from Where you'd rather 

Be Magazine on how you can join us in protecting the endangered sea turtles that nest along our shores. You can help by leaving the beaches clean, dark and flat. Our turltes will thank you!

Saving Sea Turtles One Nest at A Time 

Did you know that the beaches of Northwest Florida are a nesting place for endangered sea turtles each year? Last year, the beaches of South Walton experienced a record setting turtle nesting season, recording 125 nests! This success is due in part to the work of South Walton Turtle Watch and the many volunteers who walk the beach regularly to identify, mark and monitor sea turtle nests along the area’s pristine beaches.  

The purpose of South Walton Turtle Watch (SWTW) is to locate endangered and threatened sea turtle nests and to protect them during the crucial nesting and hatching season (May 1– October 31). By law, only certified members are allowed to interact with endangered sea turtles and SWTW partners with state officials to offer training courses annually to educate turtle walkers and certify area coordinators.   
“As sea turtle volunteers, we go through many hours of training so that we may help these wonderful sea turtles,” said Sharon Maxwell, lead volunteer with SWTW. “We are learning more each year. That is why we can get a sea turtle permit, which allows us to help endangered and threatened animals.”   

Northwest Florida beaches attract several endangered and threatened species of sea turtles, including Green, Loggerhead, Leatherback and Kemps Ridley.  A female sea turtle returns to the beach where she was born to lay her eggs, which can be more than 100 eggs per nest. Approximately 40-60 days later, the tiny hatchlings emerge from the nest and head for the Gulf of Mexico to begin their life at sea. Female Loggerheads, which are the most common species in Northwest Florida, return to their nesting beach every two or more years and lay approximately four to seven nests in a season.

Debbie Taylor is one of the 96 volunteers with South Walton Turtle Watch. She walks a designated stretch of beach during nesting season once a week or more looking for turtle tracks and signs that a female may have come ashore and laid a nest. When a nest is found, it is marked and monitored. Approximately 50 days later, SWTW volunteers start monitoring the beach for hatchling tracks as well as baby sea turtles that may have not made it safely to the water.

“I had the rare privilege of rescuing one little, two-inch hatchling just as the sun was coming up,” said Taylor. “I found an ‘unmarked’ nest with a hatchling struggling to get untangled from sea grass that had grown over the nest. With assistance from my area coordinator, we were able to tear the grass away from around her carapace, but once free, she was limping. There were strands of grass wrapped tightly around her right flipper. After gently unraveling it, she was able to use her flipper and we watched her walk down the beach and enter the Gulf. I was overwhelmed with emotion, knowing I had played a role in saving this one little sea turtle that may someday return to lay her nest on our beach.” 

Sea turtles can live to be over 100 years old, but unfortunately the survival rates are low. In fact, only one hatchling in a thousand makes it to adulthood (15-25 years). First, the egg must survive. Protecting the nest from foot traffic is a good first step, but the nest is still at risk of predation by animals as well as of high tides during storms, which can wash out and drown nests. Once hatched, hatchlings must make it to the water without becoming disoriented by artificial light or killed by predators. Finally they arrive to their home in the Gulf where they are at risk of sharks, fish, fishing lines, ingesting debris and trash, boats and pollution. For the females who survive and return to shore to nest, it is a great victory.

Through the help of South Walton Turtle Watch, its small army of volunteers and beachgoers, eggs laid along South Walton beaches have an increased chance for survival. Learn more about SWTW at www.southwaltonturtlewatch.org.  
Emerald Coast Turtle Watch
Along Destin and Okaloosa Island’s beaches, George Gray, who has served as Okaloosa County's Sea Turtle Coordinator for almost 20 years, leads similar efforts to monitor and protect sea turtle nests and educate the public.  
"Public education is vital to keeping nesting turtles protected on our shores," said Gray. “That’s why I lead educational talks and educational walks during nesting season.”  
From May through October, Gray and his family ride the beach every morning looking for turtle tracks and marking nests. Last season, they marked 18 nests and monitored them from inception to hatching. For families interested in joining Gray for an educational talk and walk, can learn more at www.emeraldcoastfl.com/things-to-do/ecotourism/educational-beach-walks.    
How You Can Help
There are many ways that beachgoers can support the local volunteer efforts to ensure sea turtle nests are protected and hatchlings make it safely to the Gulf of Mexico. Here are some ways you can help when you’re at the beach:  
-          Limit lights at night: If you’re staying at a Gulf-front property keep the lights off on the balcony and close curtains/blinds 
-          Use turtle safe flashlights or flashlight covers when on the beach at night (available at Visit South Walton Visitor Center)
-          Fill in any holes you dig and smooth out sandcastles when you leave the beach each day
-          Leave No Trace: remove all belongings and trash from the beach every day
-          Do not release helium balloons, which end up in waterways where sea turtles confuse them for their favorite food—jellyfish  
-          Report any sea turtle activity to the local turtle watch group

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Stay in Touch

(800) 225-7652
(850) 837-1071
[email protected]

Stay Connected

Best of EC Badge

© 2023 Newman-Dailey Resort Properties, Inc.   12815 Highway 98 W Miramar Beach, FL 32550   Website design by Scurto Marketing