Clearwater Marine Aquarium staff members comb twenty-seven miles of Pinellas County beaches daily, monitoring known sea turtle nests and locating new ones, protecting the nests until the turtles hatch, and finally ensuring that the hatchlings make their way safely into the ocean. As of July 10th, the 109th sea turtle nest of this year had been found, compared to 77 at this time last year and in fact already surpassing 2008’s final tally of 108 nests for the year.
This is good news for the turtles. The 2008 nesting season saw 7,399 hatchlings safely guided to Gulf waters by CMA staff. This year looks promising for the turtles too, with so many nests already discovered only halfway through the nesting season. In fact, in the past three years, the CMA has overseen the hatching and release of more than 20,000 baby sea turtles into the Gulf.
The Clearwater Marine Aquarium works tirelessly to help the sea turtles, both with their nesting staff, and with the rescue and rehabilitation of stranded or injured animals. Since 2002, the CMA has released 147 rehabilitated sea turtles back into the ocean. In 2008 alone, the CMA rescued 79 turtles, and released 18 of them. Nineteen turtles currently call the CMA home, including four species (Green, Hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley and Loggerhead). The Kemp’s Ridley is the most endangered of all sea turtle species.
While sea turtles spend most of their lives at sea, during the night, from May through September, the 350-pound female sea turtles come ashore to deposit their eggs.
Here are some sea turtle safety reminders from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium:
• Turn off outside lights and close your drapes or curtains at night, and avoid using flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach from May 1 to October 31.
• Do not harass adult turtles as they make their way back to sea. They may appear slow or hesitant, but this is normal.
• If you see an adult turtle, do not approach it or make noises, shine lights or use photo equipment with a flash.
• Do not pick up hatchlings heading toward the water, don’t shine lights or use photo equipment with a flash.
• Report all sea turtle sightings to CMA at 727-441-1790 ext. 224.
If we all follow these simple reminders, it will go a long way toward helping and protecting these endangered and cherished animals. For more information about the CMA or to find out how you can help, visit www.cmaquarium.org.