PrinterSMENVIRONMENTAL - TURTLES

SEA TURTLES AND THE BEACH ECOSYSTEM

Sea Turtles are protected by the US Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida Statute Chapter 370. It is illegal to harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings. The City of Miami Beach is a nesting habitat for three species of protected sea turtles; the Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback. Annually, beginning in April and extending through early November, the native sea turtles come to nest on our beaches. Sea turtles lay around 100 eggs in a nest and lay between 3 and 7 nests during the summer nesting season. It is important not to disturb hatchlings, eggs or nests since hatchlings need to crawl to the sea unimpeded. Touching nesting females, taking flash pictures of nesting females or hatchlings, or digging into nests is prohibited by law. If you observe someone harassing a nesting or hatchling sea turtle, contact FWC Law Enforcement at (888) 404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC on cellular phones.

THE THREAT OF ARTIFICIAL LIGHTING

Turtle nesting season in State of Florida occurs between May 1st and October 31st.  However, Turtle nesting season occurs begins on April 1st for Miami Beach to account for the earlier leatherback nesting season. Other areas of the state do not experience sea turtle nesting until approximately May 1st. Although turtles prefer dark beaches, many nest on lighted shores due to lack of dark beaches. This jeopardizes hatchlings, which are instinctively attracted to bright lights. Normally, the light that they travel towards is created by the reflection of the moon or stars off the surf. However, beachfront artificial lighting poses a serious threat to hatchlings by disorienting the hatchlings, causing them to crawl away from the ocean and toward the artificial light. On beaches where artificial lighting is visible, nesting females may be deterred from nesting and the hatchlings’ important journey to the sea can be disrupted. To prevent disorientation and adverse impacts on nesting turtles, installation of oceanfront exterior lighting that is disruptive to sea turtles is prohibited by state law (Chapter 62B-55, Florida Administrative Code). The City of Miami Beach has adopted a Turtle Nesting Protection Ordinance to minimize the impact of artificial lighting on hatchlings and nesting sea turtles and thereby protect the endangered species which frequently visits its beaches. The Ordinance encourages light management on private and public lands, preventing light pollution that is problematic for sea turtles and other nocturnal animals.

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GREEN TURTLE
Chelonia mydas

DESCRIPTION: Green Turtles are easily distinguished from other sea turtles because of a single – rather than double – pair of scales in front of its eyes. The head of a Green Turtle is small and blunt with a serrated jaw. Shells are oval and color varies from pale to dark green, plain to brilliant yellow, and brown and green with stripes. Hatchlings are dark olive green or nearly black with a white underbelly.

SIZE: Adults are 3.5 - 4 feet long, weighing between 300 - 400 pounds.

NESTING: Each female nests 3 to 5 times every other year and lays an average of 115 eggs in each nest. Eggs incubate in about 60 days.

STATUS: Endangered: This species is in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future.

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LOGGERHEAD
Caretta caretta

DESCRIPTION: Loggerheads have large heads with strong, heavy jaws and heart-shaped, ridgeless shells. Shell color is usually reddish-brown with a yellowish-brown underbelly. Hatchlings are typically dark brown with a pale brown border on their flippers.

SIZE: Adults are 2.5 - 3.5 feet in length, weighing up to 350 pounds.

NESTING: Each female nests 5 to 7 times every 2-3 years and lays an average of 80-120 eggs in each nest. Eggs incubate in about 55 days. Loggerheads are the species of sea turtle that nests most frequently in Florida.

STATUS: Threatened: This species is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future.

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LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLE
Dermochelys coriacea

DESCRIPTION: Leatherbacks are the largest turtles and the largest living reptiles in the world. Leatherbacks are the only sea turtle that lack a bony outer shell. Adults are primarily black with a pinkish-white mottled laterally ridged shell and have a pale white and pink spotting on the head. Hatchlings have white striping along their backs, are about 3-4 inches in length and weigh between 1.04-1.08 ounces.

SIZE: Adults are between 6- 6.5 feet in length and weigh about 1500-2000 pounds.

NESTING: Each female nests multiple times during a season and lays an average of 80-100 eggs in each nest. Eggs incubate in about 70 days.

STATUS: ENDANGERED: This species is in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future.

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Links:

City of Miami Beach Marine Turtle Protection Ordinance 
Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Nesting and Relocation Program 
Florida Sea Turtle License Plate 
Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute