CLEARWATER, Fla. – Sea turtle nesting season begins May 1 and ends Oct. 31 in Pinellas County. Newly hatched turtles find their way to the sea by using brightness as a guide. Under natural conditions, the moonlight that reflects off the water contrasts with the dark silhouette over the land, guiding sea turtles toward the water.
Young turtles have a small amount of energy they must use to swim continuously for about 36 hours, once they first enter the water, to make it offshore to reach floating algae. Artificial lights from buildings and roads visible from the beach can distract hatchlings on their way to the sea.
If hatchlings are confused by artificial lights, they can crawl into areas they should not be, such as pools, parking areas, and roadways, where they may perish. Only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings is estimated to survive into adulthood.
All species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered, which is why it’s critical that we protect them. All sea turtles are protected under state and federal law, and Clearwater city ordinances determine specific lighting requirements for beach parking lots, streets, and promenades for their protection.
If you live near the beach, close all curtains and blinds after sunset, shut off all decorative lighting, and make the switch to turtle-friendly lighting.
Beaches in Clearwater and Pinellas County at large are potential nesting sites to loggerheads, green sea turtles, and the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley. Residents and visitors are encouraged to follow these quick tips to protect sea turtles and their nests:
- Flatten sandcastles and fill in holes.
- Pick up and properly dispose of litter on the beach.
- Take all personal belongings from the beach at the end of the day, so no obstacles exist on the young turtles’ way to the water.
- Stay off the dunes.
- Shield any artificial lighting that might shine toward the beach.
- Refrain from using flashlights or cell phone lights, if you are walking along the beach at night.
- Say no to single-use plastic that might get carried into the Gulf of Mexico by storms.
In May 2018, Clearwater approved a voluntary resolution that promotes the long-term goal of reducing plastic pollution and single-use plastics. The city also partners with Ocean Allies, a grassroots environmental cause to steer individuals and businesses toward ocean-friendly practices.
About 450 loggerhead sea turtle nests were identified in Pinellas County last year, and each nest potentially contains about 100 eggs. If you are lucky enough to find a turtle nest on the beach, don’t disturb it. If the nest is unmarked, notify the Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s rescue hotline at (727) 441-1790, ext. 1.