Watch Out For Endangered Sea Turtles
by: Davis Yancy Clegg
Since the existence of our kind, we have sought out to better our circumstances. Dissatisfied with fire, we created a constant electric current that would soon become a source of energy, which we could not live without. Thomas Edison patented the light bulb in 1879. Since, we have taken great strides in developing the use of manufactured light. We have done such a great job that we have lit nearly the entire world. Especially in the Eastern United states and in Europe, light pollution is at a high that must be addressed. But how can light be a pollutant? The overuse of lighting in our homes and towns has disrupted the environment that keeps us on a fundamental level.
One of our major concerns on Amelia Island is the affect of outdoor lighting on the survival rate of sea turtle hatchlings. These guys live to be upwards of 60 years old, but only if they are among the lucky. The nesting season carries on from the first of May to October every year. It is a critical time for a number of endangered species high at risk. Only one in 1000 hatchlings reach adulthood. They are born on the beach of a nest after a two-month incubation period. When a hatchling is born, it knows the direction of the ocean because of the light it senses on the horizon. Often leading to their demise, their greatest weakness at birth is their natural instinct. They are wired to go towards the brightest source of light. In natural conditions, the moonlight on the ocean shines brightest. However, many of the nesting ground are in highly populated residential areas. Sea turtles have enough problems without our help adding more. They have many natural predators as hatchlings. Crabs, ants, raccoons and all sorts of birds scour the beach during the hatchlings first moments of life looking for an easy meal. Another obvious threat is that of humans. While there are laws in place to protect these dwindling species, they are very poorly enforced. Turtles are harvest both for food and for the jewelry made from their shells. But, the light emitted from your own home is a much less known threat. If the light on your front porch is mistaken by a hatchling to be the horizon, the young one will take the wrong path and become another hatchling lost.
Thankfully, we have a growing number of groups to protect these treasured creatures. The Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch group is the first responder to the cause. While volunteers do not conduct turtle walks for the public to participate, volunteers walk along the beaches at daybreak to see if any turtles have nest the night before. If they come along a nest, it will be marked as a caution with wooden stake and tape. For the hatchling’s best chance at survival, the nests cannot be disturbed. On Amelia, we are able to protect a great many of the nests. In other areas in Florida such as Melbourne, there are too many nests for the number of people involved in the community. While you may not be able to volunteer as part of groups like this one, there are lots of ways that you can protect sea turtles and their young is your daily grind. When you walk along the beach, take the time to pick up any trash you may see. Items like six-pack plastic rings and fishing line can be big trouble for a baby turtle and other wildlife in the area.
The wild is a dangerous place all on it’s own. It’s our job and our privilege to take intelligent steps and appropriate measures to protect all as best we can. You can adopt a sea turtle by calling the Florida Fish and Wildlife commission. Their number is 1-888-404-FWCC or *FWC from your cell phone. You can also buy a license plate that supports funding to protect sea turtles next time you renew. Whatever steps you take, believe they will count and a hatchling may get the chance it needs to survive because of you.
Watch the wild from the safety of our boat.
How about a relaxing Family Friendly Sunset Cruise. Enjoy our amazing sunsets and experience the sea! (more…)