Props to These Miami Moms From The Sea
Though you may not be a mama, you’ve got to give a lot of props to a mama that can lay close to 100 golfball-sized eggs on the beach. Sea turtle nesting season is upon us (May – October) and considering 70% of sea turtle nests in the U.S. are found in Florida, we are in for a busy season.
Last year, 578 sea turtle nests were reported within the 22 miles of coastline in Miami-Dade County. As you travel further north, the number of nests increases sharply. In Broward County, 3,251 nests were marked while in Palm Beach County, 34,215 nests were identified.
Home is Miami Beach
Where a sea turtle chooses to lay its eggs is due to an innate sense of where it is from. A single female will re-visit the same beach to lay her eggs 3 to 7 times during the nesting season before taking a one or two-year hiatus. Her hatchlings that survive to adulthood will return to the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs. Scientists recently found that turtles’ innate sense to return “home” comes from following Earth’s magnetic field. This internal GPS helps the animals remember the unique magnetic signature of the coastline from where they were born. Even as this magnetic field changes slightly each year, the turtles follow the signature changes to return to their home coastline.
This behavior stems from an evolutionary draw to ensure future generations survive and reproduce. When faced with ensuring that your child will be born in a safe place, find plenty of food, benefit from favorable living conditions, and avoid being killed, you will most likely go back to where you came from. The thought being:
“if it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for my offspring.”
The City of Miami Beach is a nesting habitat for three species of sea turtles – the Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback. Each of these species is protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida Statute Chapter 370. Anyone found to be harming or harassing sea turtles, their nests, or hatchlings will spend time in jail.
Baby sea turtles can be seen emerging 45 to 95 days after being deposited in a nest. Typically occurring as a mass exodus, the hatchlings use the moonlight’s reflection over the ocean to guide them home. Areas with condo development, artificial light, severe beach erosion, and trash disrupt nesting and hatchling behavior, leading to disorientated and stressed mamas and babies. By observing city ordinances you improve the quality of nesting grounds for these threatened species and increase their chances of successful nesting.
Here are some ways you can promote healthy sea turtle populations in south Florida:
- Keep bright lights from shining onto the beach or build shades around lights so the beach is not directly illuminated.
- Do not leave plastic bags or balloons on the beach. Plastic bags and balloons very closely resemble jellyfish, a favorite food of sea turtles, and will cause illness or death to turtles and other marine life that eat them.
- Participate in habitat restoration events aimed at restoring turtle nesting sites. Beach clean-ups such as the International Coastal Clean Up (third Saturday in September) provide opportunities for to get in the field and work towards meaningful results. Call 305-230-1144 for more information about how you can get involved!
- If you see someone harassing a sea turtle or poaching a nest, call the local police or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (1-888-404-FWCC)
- Spread the word! Even just a little knowledge goes a long way – drop your new sea turtle knowledge on your family, friends, colleagues, bartenders, anyone who will listen!
The best way to see sea turtles up close and personal
Is to reserve a spot in the Sea Turtle Awareness Program put on by Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation. For more information, call 305-361-6767 ext. 121
As always, I’m here to answer any of your marine science questions so don’t be afraid to dive in deep and email me, Paola, at email@example.com!