Sea Turtles are one of the endangered species living in Palm Beach County. Read the article below to learn more about these amazing animals.
Introduction to Sea Turtles:
Sea Turtles in Palm Beach County:
Palm Beach County's beaches are unique. We have a large population of people living on and using beaches that are critically important for sea turtle nesting in the United States. Every day, thousands of people play on the beaches which are a nursery for hundreds of thousands of sea turtle eggs during the summer months. Conflicts arise from our activities, including coastal development, that have a direct effect on the continued survival of sea turtles.
Map of beach survey boundaries for Palm Beach County in 1999.
Loggerhead turtles lay the vast majority of nests in the County with the green turtle and leatherback turtle accounting for the remainder of the nests. Two other species also can be found in our off-shore waters, the hawksbill and the very rare Kemp's ridley. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the leatherback, green, hawksbill and Kemp's ridley sea turtles as "endangered" species; and the loggerhead sea turtle as a "threatened" species.
Palm Beach County is leading the way in sea turtle protection. The County's Board of County Commissioners has recognized the importance of our beaches to the sea turtles and passed the Palm Beach County Sea Turtle Protection Ordinance in 1987, one of the first in the state. The County's Department of Environmental Resources Management is responsible for implementing measures designed to protect sea turtles and urges everyone to learn more about these magnificent creatures.
Map of jurisdictional boundaries for Section 9.1.
Municipalities which are within the jurisdiction of Section 9.1 include: Tequesta, Jupiter Inlet Colony, Jupiter, North Palm Beach, Riviera Beach (Singer Island), Palm Beach Shores, Lake Worth, Lantana, Manalapan and Boynton Beach. Please call our office at (561) 233-2400 to confirm if a particular property is within the limits of the jurisdictional boundaries of Section 9.1. Additional lighting guidelines are available via two reports:
ERM conducted a study to evaluate the effect of correcting lighting on reducing sea turtle disorientations. This study found that by reducing the number of lights visible from thebeach, fewer disorientation events and fewer numbers of disoriented hatchlings were observed, which resulted in a lower percentage of nests disoriented.
Sea Turtle Nesting:
Palm Beach County's beaches are some of the most densely nested in the United States. Sea turtles can be found in our waters year round, but in the spring and summer, large numbers of adults congregate off our beaches and along the reefs. Look at these graphs that show the high nesting density for Loggerhead and Green turtles, as compared to the rest of the east coast of the United States.
The Incubating Nests and Hatchlings:
The eggs and nests must remain undisturbed in the warm sand for 47 to 60 days before they hatch. The nests are located approximately 12 to 18 inches below the surface, and are generally found above the high tide line on the dry beach and sometimes up into the dune vegetation.
Threats to Sea Turtles in Palm Beach County:
Man is the Number One threat to sea turtles in our county. Sea turtles have many natural hazards such as sharks, fish, birds, ghost crabs and erosion of nests, but they have faced these hazards for millions of years and have adapted to them. However, in the last few decades in Palm Beach County, man has added unnatural hazards such as: buildings and seawalls on the dunes and beaches, illumination of the beach and coastal areas, plastics, styrofoam and fishing line littering the beach, tractors being driven on the beaches to manicure them, people disturbing sea turtles as they nest at night, and a steady increase in boating and fishing activity.
What You Can Do to Help Protect Our Sea Turtles:
Sea turtle populations will continue to decline without your support and assistance. The following are suggestions of ways you can help save our sea turtles:
- Avoid visiting the sea turtle nesting beaches at night during the summer unless accompanied by a guide permitted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
- Do not disturb or handle any sea turtles, their eggs or their nests. All are violations of both federal and state laws.
- Report all dead, injured or stranded turtles and hatchlings or anyone harassing/molesting sea turtles or their nests to the Florida Marine Patrol at 1-800-DIAL-FMP.
- Prevent all lights from illuminating or being visible from the beach including security lights, balcony and porch lights, flashlights and car headlights. These lights are responsible for the deaths of thousands of hatchlings every year and can be eliminated or modified easily to avoid impacts.
- Encourage beachfront resorts, restaurants and developments to use unobtrusive lighting.
- Reduce litter and marine debris by disposing of your trash properly, picking up any plastics and fishing line you see and participating in community beach clean-ups.
- Prevent pets from disturbing nesting females, digging up nests and eating hatchlings.
- Do not drive any motor vehicles on the beach.
- Avoid digging deep holes or sticking poles into the sand, such as beach umbrellas.
- Cooperate with local groups monitoring sea turtles by not disturbing nest markers. Do not cover sea turtle tracks or mark nests yourself unless you have a marine turtle permit from the FDEP.
- Operate your boat with an awareness that sea turtles congregate in our waters in high numbers, particularly in the summer, and may be difficult to see when they surface to breathe.
- Support local conservation groups that monitor sea turtles.
Sea Turtle Walks:
If you are heading for the beach at night to observe nesting sea turtles, it is advisable to go with an authorized guide. Guided sea turtle walks are available from May to July. Participants are able to view a nesting sea turtle with a trained guide permitted by the State of Florida. Individuals are encouraged to participate in these walks which provide the viewers with additional information and are conducted under strict guidelines to reduce disturbance to sea turtles. Group walks are available in various part of Palm Beach and adjacent counties or statewide.
Report beachfront lighting problems to Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management (561) 233-2400 .
Report injured or dead sea turtles to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Tequesta at (561) 575-5455 OR Florida Marine Patrol at 1-800-DIAL-FMP. Report violations, harassment or poaching to Florida Marine Patrol at 1-800-DIAL-FMP .