This week's post is by high school intern Adam Tardif, in collaboration with Nicole Finnicum. Thanks Adam!
Here on Sanibel, we all love our sea turtles, and we want to make sure that we are good neighbors to them. As the sea turtle nesting season begins, it is important to realize that humans can sometimes disturb the nesting process without even realizing it. Here are five things you can do as an individual to help in the effort to protect sea turtles:
1. Don't litter. Large pieces of litter can act as a physical barrier to sea turtles searching for the perfect nesting site. Also, trash floating in the ocean (plastic bags, Styrofoam, plastic bottles, fishing lures, etc.) can resemble common sea turtle food items, and if ingested can cause turtles to choke or experience digestive disturbances – not much fun for these magnificent creatures. But perhaps the best reason not to litter is that you will feel good knowing that you have helped to make Sanibel a safer place for wildlife.
2. Turn your lights off at night (especially if you live on the beach). Artificial lights can be distracting to adult sea turtles that are nesting – they have the most nesting success in just the light of the moon. Also, hatchling turtles will crawl towards the brightest light they see, which is usually the moon reflecting off of the ocean. Artificial light can be very confusing to a newly hatched turtle and may expose them to predation or cause them to become disoriented or lost.
3. Dispose of fishing materials in designated bins. Sea turtles are good swimmers and their front fins are very powerful. However, since sea turtles move their front fins in a circular motion, they frequently become entangled in fishing lines and ropes. Sanibel Sea School has placed monofilament recycling bins near popular fishing spots on Sanibel – please look for them and use them when you are fishing!
4. Leave the beach as you found it. We love spending a day at the beach, lounging in a beach chair and digging sand castles. But, sea turtles are clumsy on land and obstacles like beach furniture and holes are difficult for them to maneuver around, and could block them from reaching an ideal nesting site.
5. Don't drive on the beach. While driving on the beach can be lots of fun, vehicles pose a threat to nesting adults, and tire tracks in the sand can make traveling to the ocean much more difficult for recently-emerged hatchlings. While we are on the topic of transportation – watch out for sea turtles in your boat as well!
If you are interested in the most up-to-date information on local nesting sites on Sanibel and Captiva, click here!