Sea turtles come to nest on our beaches from May through October and Southwest Florida plays a pretty big role in the loggerhead sea turtle population.
“Florida accounts for 90 percent of the nesting,” Sarah Norris, an environmental specialist at Rookery Bay Research Reserve , said. “Folks may know we have sea turtle nesting going on every year. This is one of the best spots in the world for them to come to and lay their eggs and continue their population.”
These nests are protected by law and can not be disturbed, but Norris encourages people to observe the nests at a safe distance.
Norris said these animals are one of many victims of ocean pollution and the number one way everyone can help them is to cut back on single-use plastics like straws, cups and bags.
“Plastics is starting to be an issue as far as them consuming and getting into their digestive tracks. Which is not normal or good for them and can cause some severe internal issues and maybe a not so happy ending.” Norris said.
You can view the different graphics from NASA that show garbage in the ocean throughout the world.
This garbage includes a lot of plastic that are harmful to sea turtles in many ways. Norris explains how plastic bags are specifically harmful to sea turtles.
“Jellyfish are a big part of diets for most of the sea turtle species and when you have a floating plastic bag it can look like a jellyfish or a balloon and things of that nature. Just because we know what they are, doesn’t mean the sea turtles know what they are and may accidentally ingest these and can be very harmful to them,” Norris said.
The biggest way to cut back on plastic bag usage is to bring reusable bags when you go grocery shopping. If you do end up forgetting your reusable bags, places like Publix and Walmart have stations where you can recycle the plastic bags safely.
Rookery Bay researches and studies sea turtles throughout nesting season and provides their findings to FWC. They find the nests and put a metal cage around them to keep predators out. Without this, countless nests would be lost to animals like raccoons.
Rookery Bay has a fundraiser where you can adopt a sea turtle nest. You will have a specific nest with your name on it and receive updates on when it hatches and how many hatchlings there are. The money raised goes to supporting the interns who take care of and monitor the nests throughout the summer.
For more information on their Adopt a Nest Program, watch the video above.