- June 25, 2014
Turtle nesting season officially began May 1, but the first nest on Longboat Key was found the morning of April 28.
“We’ve discovered a lot of nests this season, but we’ve also discovered some not-so-good things," Longboat Key Turtle Watch Vice President Cyndi Seamon said.
Longboat residents, visitors and businesses are asked each nesting season to follow certain guidelines, including turning off their lights at night and removing their items from the beach after sunset.
“Sea turtles are an endangered and threatened species, and nesting is a critical step in their life cycle, but it takes a lot of energy and comes with natural risks,” Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist with the Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at Mote Marine Laboratory, said. “So it makes sense for humans to avoid adding any challenges.”
Most people and businesses on Longboat are compliant with the restrictions that come with nesting season and move their items from the beach after sunset. However, twice this season, a nesting turtle has become caught on a beach chair and dragged it to sea
On June 6, a turtle dragged a chair more than 149 feet to the water. She was able to escape, but if a turtle cannot break free from the chair, she can drown. Another chair was dragged to the water on June 15.
“Even when it doesn’t involve the turtles, I don’t know why people think it’s okay to do this,” Seamon said. “If everybody left stuff out, would we really want to go to the beach? It’s like a campsite out here.”
Along with beach chairs, people leave tenting equipment, towels, toys and trash on the beach. To ensure the safety of the turtles, it is important for people to leave the beach with no residue of their time there.
“Leave the beach as if it were a deserted island, no chairs people, lights or holes, just natural,” Mazzarella said. “Turtles use the entire beach. This means they may even crawl or nest into the dunes, so leaving furniture on the beach, even if pulled up to the dune line, is still dangerous. Most people don’t think that turtles will go up very far on the beach.”
On most Sarasota County beaches, it is required to remove furniture from beach. On Longboat Key, however, it is voluntary.
“We can’t make people do anything, but we can ask,” Seamon said. “Some people observe it, some don’t, but we need more people to help us and the turtles out.”
Turtle Watch volunteers believe a lot of people leaving their items on the beach due to a general lack of knowledge.
“I think it’s both that we’re not educating the public enough but also the irresponsibility of the public,” 15-year-old volunteer Niko Kuncis said.
If a group cannot drag chairs completely off the sand, Turtle Watch recommends people stack them to reduce the space they take up.
“I just wish people understood better,” Turtle Watch volunteer Jennifer Sargeant said. “People don’t think their one chair could make a difference, but it does. They need to stack it and see how much room it frees up.”
Every morning, two to four Turtle Watch volunteers walk a mile and a half of the beach to monitor previously discovered nests and also watch for new ones. Volunteers walk from once a week to every day.
"We’ve discovered a lot of nests this season, but we’ve also discovered some not-so-good things." — Longboat Key Turtle Watch Vice President Cyndi Seamon said.
“I like coming out here and being able to see the miracle of life with these marine mammals,” said Kuncis, who has wanted to be a marine biologist since he was 4. “I also like being able to see the beach without a lot of people.”
Turtle nesting season ends Oct. 31, and until then, residents are asked to clean up after themselves to help the turtles and their nests.
“Enjoy wherever you are, and leave no trace,” Seamon said.