Michael Ryan is asking Historic City News readers to help protect St. Johns County’s sea turtle habitat by observing all nesting season laws and regulations along our Atlantic Ocean beaches from now through October 31, 2014.
Local beaches are home to several species of endangered or threatened sea turtles. Residents and visitors have a special opportunity and responsibility to protect these magnificent creatures and their vulnerable nesting sites as they arrive every spring and summer to nest.
“Leave only your footprints, providing the turtles with a safe and clean habitat in which to nest and hatch,” Ryan told local reporters. “St. Johns County thanks its volunteers, residents, visitors and businesses for supporting habitat conservation efforts and keeping our beaches beautiful.”
Last year, St. Johns County set new records along its 41 miles of shoreline, identifying 746 nests; including 671 loggerhead, 59 green, and a record 16 leatherback nests. Sea turtle nesting season began May 1st,
Ryan says that residents, visitors, and businesses all play a role in helping to protect the sea turtle’s natural habitat. Vehicular traffic on the beach is allowed between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. In addition, all beachfront properties are required to reduce the impact of their interior and exterior lights which may disrupt nesting sea turtles. These measures are enacted to ensure compliance with the St. Johns County Habitat Conservation Plan and Incidental Take Permit.
Beachgoers can also have a positive impact on nesting sea turtles by taking the following actions while enjoying the beach:
• Use trash and recycling receptacles.
• Refrain from using fireworks and open fires.
• Remove ruts and fill in holes left by vehicles and sand castle building.
• Refrain from leaving chairs, umbrellas, or canopies on the beach overnight.
• Avoid entering sand dunes and conservation zones (15 feet seaward of the dune line).
• Refrain from using balloons for events, as they fall into the ocean and can harm marine life.
• Avoid disturbing or handling sea turtles, their eggs, or their nests.
Never push an injured animal back into the ocean. If an injured, sick, or deceased sea turtle is encountered, please call the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency dispatch line at 904.824.8304.