Sea turtle nesting season lasts from March 1-October 31 each year. The BCSTCP has been monitoring Broward County’s beaches for sea turtle activity since 1981, and long-term trends suggest an increase in nesting through time. Specifically, green sea turtles have made quite a comeback in Broward County and statewide. Historically, Broward County documented about 50-200 green turtle nests each season. However, green turtles have been nesting in high numbers every other year in Florida and Broward County since 2013. Sea turtles do not nest each year, which explains the seasonal fluctuations observed. This season, green turtles surpassed the previous high record (665 nests in 2017) by laying 735 nests on the County’s beaches.
Although nesting numbers have been increasing in Broward County, threats such as artificial lighting can endanger the sea turtle population. Hatchling (baby) turtles are especially susceptible to beachfront lighting because they use light to find the ocean after emerging from their nests. Additionally, “sky glow” (excess light directed up and into the sky) from properties located west of the beach is still visible from the beach, so you do not need to have an oceanfront view to make a difference.
Following these guidelines can help hatchlings find their way to the ocean, no matter where you live:
Turn off lights that are not necessary for safety (reduce decorative lighting)
Use full cut-off fixtures or shielded fixtures
Use red or amber LED bulbs if you live near the beach or another environmentally sensitive area
Close curtains at night or move interior light sources away from windows
Each of the County’s coastal municipalities has its own beachfront lighting ordinance, but most generally require property owners to extinguish lights from sunset to sunrise during sea turtle nesting season. More information about your local lighting ordinance and a list of certified lighting fixtures can be found by visiting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website (www.myfwc.com). Alternatively, you can contact the BSCTCP for assistance with retrofitting or additional information.
Plastic pollution is another threat to sea turtles. Plastic bags and balloons resemble jellyfish, a common food source for all species of turtle swimming in Florida waters. Large pieces of plastic break down into smaller pieces called microplastics, which hatchling turtles consume and then become sick. To help reduce the amount of plastic in the environment, remember these tips:
Do not release balloons
Carry a reusable coffee cup or water bottle with you
Skip the straw, or use a stainless steel/glass straw
Bring your own container for leftovers when dining out
No matter your location, the ocean and beaches are connected to our everyday actions. If we make better choices for the environment like reducing light pollution or saying “no” to single-use plastics, sea turtle populations can continue to thrive, and more record-breaking nesting seasons will hopefully become the norm in the future.