The team at The Shores Resort & Spa is excited about the sea turtle nesting season [May 1 through October 31]. In one of the most beautiful displays of the circle of life, adult female sea turtles lay nests of about 100 or so eggs that incubate for about 60 days, hatch, emerge from the sand, and for their first time crawl to the ocean and begin their life at sea. In about 15 to 30 years some of the same hatchlings, now adult females, will return to the same beach to lay yet another generation of these ancient mariners. We encourage you to enjoy your stay with us, take only memories if you do encounter sea turtles, and help to protect them by not distracting them by lights. Also, if you observe an injured sea turtle, you can report it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). We all have a role to play – the future of sea turtles "…must depend on the conscience of mankind," [Dr. Archie Carr, Father of Sea Turtle Biology].
Here in Florida, conservation efforts are championed by organizations like the Marine Science Center in Daytona Beach. Since 2002, they have been working to conserve sea turtles and other marine life through education and outreach, research, and a well-established sea turtle hospital. Guests are engaged in marine education through camps, daily presentations, field trips, and turtle tots - a monthly program that offers opportunities for toddlers to learn about local marine life. In addition to studying marine birds and coral reefs, Marine Science Center also maintains a sea turtle tagging program which provides valuable information on migratory patterns of locally occurring sea turtle species. Marine Science Center, however, is most known for its sea turtle rehabilitation center. The complex includes a fully functional animal hospital, which has cared for nearly 1500 juvenile and adult sea turtles and more than 20,000 sea turtle hatchlings. Visit marinesciencecenter.com for additional information including ways to support Marine Science Center.
Sea turtles have an amazing story. Modern turtles evolved during the Cretaceous period – 120 years ago. Of the four families that survived the mass extinction at the end of Mesozoic period (the loss of the dinosaurs), two families remain today. The leatherback sea turtle (of the family Dermochelyidae) and the hard-shelled turtles – Green, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, Olive ridley, and Australian Flatback (of the family Cheloniidae) are still alive today. Their story is truly one of resilience.
As ancient and majestic as sea turtles are, there are a number of man-made threats that have contributed to global population collapses of all species. Everything from plastics in the ocean, to degradation of nesting beaches, to climate change and its associated impacts, to historical overfishing, to incidental capture, to boat strikes, to poaching, etc. have put all species of sea turtles on the endangered species list. But Dr. Carr was correct. Many populations of sea turtles around the world are recovering because of a number of amazing sea turtle biologist/conservationists. These sea turtle heroes have identified local, national, and international threats that negatively impact sea turtle populations and have designed and implemented conservation programs and projects to "reverse the decline".
The loggerhead is the most common sea turtle in Florida. Leatherback and green sea turtles also nest on Florida shores. Because they are all endangered, they are all federally and internationally protected. Conservation efforts do work. On Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge on the island of St. Croix, efforts to study and conserve sea turtles increased populations from about 19 individuals (1982) to 202 individuals (2002); according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Leatherbacks from Sandy Point migrate as far north as Nova Scotia - possibly even making stops in Florida along the way. Sea turtles are highly migratory and efforts to truly protect them must include regional/international approaches and cooperation. So no matter where you travel, be sure to dim the lights, give turtles their privacy, report injured turtles, and help keep the beaches clean.
About the Author:
Kemit-Amon Lewis is a marine scientist originally from the island of St. Croix with over a decade of experience in the marine conservation field. His work includes a successful coral reef restoration effort that has been implemented globally, a responsible fishing program that unites fishermen and restaurants, and Lionfish education and control efforts.
We asked Kemit when he knew he wanted to study sea turtles. His response: You know how some people know exactly what they want to be from a very young age? That's me! I grew up in the small island of St. Croix [US Virgin Islands], I spent most of my childhood days on one of our many beaches, and I always knew that I was going to become a marine scientist. I also knew that I was going to study dolphins. Wrong! In my freshman year in college, I spent one night on Sandy Point Beach, St. Croix; home to a large nesting assemblage of leatherback sea turtles. It was that night, under a starlit sky, observing the 6-foot female sea turtles crawl onto the beach to lay their eggs, that I fell in love… I've been studying sea turtles ever since. It was around that time that I learned the quote that would defined how I approach my career as a marine scientist.
"For most of the wild things on Earth, the future must depend on the conscience of mankind" [Dr. Archie Carr, Father of Sea Turtle Biology].