Members of Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol this week found six disturbed sea turtle nests. The flagging tape was removed from two nests, another had broken stakes and three nests had the stakes removed and placed elsewhere.
“Moving the stakes might cause us to lose that nest and any information we have on it,” said Kendra Garrett, Mote staff biologist. “It can also hamper our monitoring of that nest. If we don’t know where a nest is, we can’t protect the eggs and the hatchling turtles.”
Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol monitors beaches each morning and marks sea turtle nests sites with yellow wooden stakes and fluorescent flagging tape. The nests are monitored throughout the incubation period and once hatched, are excavated to determine the success of each nest and the overall success of the nesting season.
Given the environmental issues that sea turtles are already facing this year, from record cold temperatures in January and the current Deepwater Horizon oil spill, protecting sea turtle nests is especially important.
In January, more than 4,500 turtles statewide were stranded because of an arctic blast that sent Gulf waters to such low temperatures, it led to record numbers of cold-stunned turtles that had to be treated at rehabilitation facilities.
In April, the Deepwater Horizon oilrig exploded and has not yet been capped. Oil washing up on shore in the Florida Panhandle led to the relocation of nearly 70,000 sea turtle eggs to Florida’s East Coast by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Sea turtles are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act, which restricts “the take, possession, disturbance, mutilation, destruction, selling, transference, molestation and harassment of marine turtles, nests of eggs.” Violating these rules can result in imprisonment for up to 60 days, fines up to $500 or both, plus additional penalties of $100 for each sea turtle egg destroyed or taken.
“Sea turtles in the Gulf are really having a tough year,” Garrett said. “We need the public to help us help turtles. We ask that beachgoers please be careful on the beaches and not move or destroy stakes or the tape used to mark nests. And if you see a violation, please call the FWC.”
Report any suspected wildlife law violations to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Reward Program at 888-404-3922.
Contact Loren Mayo at [email protected].