Keeping beaches dark at night and free of obstacles will help sea turtles during their nesting season, which begins May 1 in Northeast Florida and continues through Oct. 31. Dark means no artificial lighting visible from the beach, including flashlights and flash photography, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol (BSTP), nature centers and local governments contribute greatly to sea turtle conservation. In 2018, 3,522 loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtle nests were recorded in Duval, Nassau, St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties. The all-volunteer nonprofit BSTP is the only Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)-permitted turtle patrol in Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville Beach. But caring beachgoers and oceanfront residents can also make a significant difference in helping nesting and hatchling sea turtles survive.
On May 1, 2018, the City of Atlantic Beach began regulating artificial lighting emitted from oceanfront houses and businesses (for information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 247-5804). Turning out lights or closing curtains and shades in buildings along the beach after dark helps ensure that nesting turtles are not disturbed. Also, bright artificial lighting can misdirect and disturb nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings, so beachgoers should avoid using flashlights or cellphones at night. Clearing away boats, beach furniture and trash at the end of the day, leveling sandcastles, and filling in holes in the sand are also important because turtles can become trapped in furniture and get trapped in holes on the beach.
Another key to protecting sea turtles is not touching hatchlings, which typically dig out of nests and scramble to the ocean from July through October. Other ways to help sea turtles include properly disposing of fishing line to avoid entanglements, and reporting sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at (888) 404-3922, or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone (select option 7). For turtles found in Atlantic Beach, call BSTP directly at (904) 613-6081.
Here is the 2019 version of the City of Atlantic Beach's annual letter to oceanfront property owners pertaining to sea turtle protection.