All five species of Florida Sea Turtles are either endangered or threatened. For years they were hunted and harvested for their meat, eggs and shell and their populations were greatly reduced.
The Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill, Kemp's Riley, and Leatherback sea turtle are all federally-designated endangered species. The Loggerhead sea turtle is federally-designated as threatened.
By law, it is illegal to disturb sea turtles, including eggs and hatchlings.
Even though they are legally protected, and their numbers are bouncing back, they still suffer from many threats:
- Sea turtles get caught in the nets of fishermen or are struck by boat propellers
- Habitat degradation and trash in the oceans are a problem. Plastic bags, fishing lines and other debris can be eaten by the sea turtles causing their death
- Nesting habitats are constantly being destroyed by development. Lights along the beaches are particularly hazardous for hatchlings which use the reflection from the moon to orient themselves towards the water. Other sources of light causes them to head in the wrong direction.
- In some countries, turtles are still a source of food. They are also harvested for their shells for souvenirs, jewellery and other uses.
What we can do
- If you are staying on the beach, please be mindful of lights outside, many communities in Florida have ordinances that restrict beachfront lighting during the nesting season, try to keep lights shielded or at a lower intensity
- Help keep our oceans clean, if you see any trash at the beach, pick it up and dispose properly
- If you find an injured sea turtle, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (888) 404-3922
- Do not disturb nesting areas
- Learn more and volunteer!
Learning About Sea Turtles, Turtle Awareness Programs, Turtle Walks
If you want to learn more about sea turtles, there are many places you can visit and several programs organized during the nesting season where you can have a chance to observe sea turtles.
We recently attended the Sea Turtle Awareness Program by Miami Dade Parks. It was a combination of lecture and turtle walk/hatchling release.
The program aims to educate the public about the plight of the sea turtles. You learn about their activities, the life of the turtles, the constant threats. The talks are performed by rangers and volunteers that are on location at the nesting beaches on a daily basis and are very passionate and knowledgeable about the topic.
They keep track of the nests and calculate when the eggs will hatch and the programs are run from mid-July to September at the peak of the season.
After the talk we had a chance to come out to the beach and watch the hatchlings as they are released and quickly dash across the sand and into the ocean.
The programs are mainly Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and reservations are a must. Besides Crandon Park, the program is also offered at Haulover Beach Park. Cost is $10 per participant.
You MUST make reservations, which can be made starting every July 1st. The sooner the better, they sell-out fast! Call 305-361-6767 ext. 121 or book online.
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Search Text: "turtle"
Category of Activity: "EcoAdventures"
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Other Turtle Walks, Hatchling Releases and Sea Turtle Awareness Programs in South Florida, reservations are required for all:
- Dania Beach: John Lloyd Park 6503 N. Ocean Dr., 954-923-2833.
- Fort Lauderdale: Museum of Discovery and Science 401 SW Second Pl., 954-713-0930 www.mods.org.
- Boca Raton: Gumbo Limbo Nature Center 1801 N. Ocean Blvd. 561-338-1473 www.gumbolimbo.org.
- Hollywood: Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park 751 Sheridan St, 954-926-2480. Walks are 8-10 p.m. Wednesday and Friday nights.
And also worth a stop specially if you are heading down to the Florida Keys is the Turtle Hospital in Marathon.
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