Saving The Turtles During Nesting Season

Guest Post by: Maija Elizabeth, creator of Sustainability Maija 

Hello everyone! My name is Maija Elizabeth, and I’m known as @sustainablymaija on TikTok, Facebook, & Instagram, where I talk about sustainable living and spread awareness about the ocean plastic crisis. I am excited to be back writing with Happy Eco News! I wrote an article in January of 2022 titled “7 Ways We Can Help Protect the Oceans“. Today’s article is about protecting one of the most loved marine animals, the sea turtle. I hope I can teach you some things that I have been learning over my years of adoring sea turtles. Some boys in high school used to call me “save the turtles girl”, and today I am very proud to be living up to that name!

Nesting Season:

As much of a joke as it is to say “save the turtles”, it honestly is a serious topic. All sea turtle species are either threatened or endangered, which is why sea turtle nesting season is a critical time to care about them! Sea turtle nesting season is from April to October every year, typically laying their eggs between North Carolina and Florida in the United States. The number of eggs in a nest is called clutches; depending on the type of sea turtle, there can be a lot in one clutch. Flatbacks can lay about 50, loggerheads lay up to 120, and hawksbills can lay up to 200 in one clutch! That’s only to name a few types of turtles. Something fascinating to me is that female turtles will generally lay their eggs on the same beach every time and travel over 1000 miles to get there.

How are the genders of sea turtles determined?:

This is a new fact I have learned recently about sea turtles, and how I learned about this is because of climate change news. The temperature of the sand determines the gender of sea turtles! Females are formed in warmer temperatures, while males are formed in cooler temperatures. With rising temperatures from climate change, female hatchlings are majorly outnumbering the number of male hatchlings. Reducing emissions and adopting a more sustainable lifestyle will help our planet and hopefully help more male turtles hatch. Sea turtle’s sexual maturity age levels vary depending on the species. Loggerheads range between 25-30 years, hawksbills are 20-25, ridleys are 11-16, and 26-40 years for green sea turtles. Since sea turtles do take so long to sexually mature and be able to reproduce, we must protect them as much as we can!

Obstacles For Turtles:

I bet those numbers in the clutches made you think, ‘how are sea turtles in danger when they lay so many eggs?’ Unfortunately, only one sea turtle for 1000 hatchlings makes it to adulthood. If baby sea turtles do not make it in the ocean fast enough, they can die from dehydration, exhaustion, or get eaten by predators. Many things can interfere with baby sea turtles quickly getting to the ocean. For example, sand castles and holes on the beach can make them work even harder to reach their destination safely. I know people put a lot of effort into making sandcastles and digging holes on their beach days, but the castles need to be knocked down, and the holes need to be filled as soon as possible to keep the turtles safe. 

Plastic Pollution v. Sea turtles:

Sea turtles also suffer injuries from getting hit by boats, bit by predators, and ingesting plastic. My favorite way to help the turtles from anywhere in the world is to clean up litter! Trash on the beach can stop baby turtles and mother turtles from laying eggs on that beach in the first place. Since plastic can take thousands of years to break down, it is essential to reduce our consumption of plastics and clean up what others leave behind. Plastic will never break down in our lifetimes and will instead turn into microplastics from which marine life will ingest and develop health issues. Sea turtles mistake soft plastics for jellyfish, the main food source. By 2050 or sooner, if we keep producing plastic at these rates, more plastic will be in the ocean than fish.

Turtle Safe Lighting:

Bright lighting counts as an obstacle for sea turtles, but I believe turtle-safe lighting needs its paragraph. When baby sea turtles hatch at night, they follow the moonlight to get into the ocean. If bright artificial lighting is on, it can disorient the baby turtles and cause them to go inland. People find sea turtles disorientated in areas that do not have safe turtle lighting during nesting season. That could cause the turtles to not only die of exhaustion, dehydration and be more vulnerable to predators, but it can also cause them to get hit by cars. It is best to have no lights on and close all blinds facing the ocean. Most coastal areas will strongly recommend turning off lights between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am since turtles are most active during the night. If you go for a beach walk at night, do not use your regular white flashlight! Use a red light instead because sea turtles cannot see red light as well as us and are less likely to mistake red for moonlight. Red light also has a longer wavelength, which means it has a lower frequency; therefore, turtles will not be attracted to it! Suppose you stay at beachfront hotels between North Carolina and Florida. In that case, they typically will advocate for turtle-safe lighting, which is an excellent opportunity to educate people on nesting season who may not have known. 

Favorite Turtle Advocates:

There are a lot of turtle advocates out there who are doing so much for all species of sea turtles, and I wanted to name some that I follow along with! Loggerhead Marinelife Center is a place based in Juno Beach, Florida, with amazing volunteers and staff to help so many people save sea turtles. The team will go out early morning to mark new sea turtle nests to ensure nobody digs near them. The center just underwent renovations to be able to care for more turtles by adding extra tanks for adult turtles and even for babies as well! LMC is the place that sparked my love for saving the ocean and starting my platforms on social media. One of my new favorite places to visit is Hilton Head, South Carolina. The Hilton Head Sea Turtle Patrol also does a great job at marking the nests to make sure people know where eggs are located. They also do a great job educating people in the area on the sea turtles who make nests on the island’s beaches. The last organization I will name is the Sea Turtle Conservancy. They take donations to help care for sea turtles everywhere and find cool ways to get people involved worldwide! I highly recommend you check out those organizations.

Protecting the adult sea turtles now and making sure baby turtles make it to adulthood will be an essential way to save them. Sea turtles desperately need protection to protect other species of fish who use turtles while they migrate. Sea turtle shells are traveling habitats for barnacles, algae, phytoplankton, and many more of the ocean’s smallest creatures. I hope you enjoyed today’s article and that you learned some fascinating things about sea turtles! A date for you to remember is June 16th, which is World Sea Turtle Day; mark your calendars. Sea turtles are dinosaurs and have been around for over 90 million years. We need them to be about 90 million more years, so let’s care deeply for our oceans and our planet! The ocean provides 50% to 80% of the earth’s oxygen, and if there are no sea turtles, then there is no healthy ocean, which sums up to an extremely unhealthy earth. Now is crucial to start saving the turtles and all other marine life!

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