Sea Turtle Hatchlings Crawling to Ocean

Our Beaches Lead the Nation in Sea Turtle Nest Density

Palm Beach County's beaches are popular places for people to enjoy the sand and surf.  And they are also popular places for female sea turtles to visit every year from March through October to nest.  Our beaches have more sea turtle nests per mile than anywhere else in the United States producing approximately 2,000,000 hatchings each year!   


 
Adult Leatherback Sea Turtle Nested on Beach and Returning to Ocean

What Brings Sea Turtles Here?

 ​Sea turtles are marine reptiles that spend their time migrating in the ocean - not an ideal place for a sea turtle hatchling to develop.  Because they need air to breathe as they develop in the egg, a sandy beach makes a great incubator for sea turtle embroys.  So why here in Palm Beach County?  Could it be that our beaches are closest to the Gulfstream Current that migrating turtles use to navigate the ocean?  The answer is...scientists have not pinpointed the exact reason some beaches are more favorable than others.  But one thing is known - most nesting females return to the same beach they hatched from to nest making our beaches critical to future generations of sea turtles. 

Sea turtle swimming off the coast of Palm Beach County

While many sea turtles like juvenile greens, can be found swimming in our coastal waters and inshore lagoons like Lake Worth Lagoon estuary, most have migrated thousands of miles through the open ocean to reach our beaches to nest.  So how do females know how to get back to the same beach they were born at after swimming for years in the ocean during which time the shoreline changes due to erosion, development, and natural sand drift?  By using the Earth's magnetic field and a magnetic mineral found in their brains, they literally have an internal compass that allows them to sense where they are on Earth! 


Closeup image of green sea turtle face

Sea Turtles Have Poor Vision On Land 

This makes it difficult for them to crawl  around objects on the beach and they are unable to go backwards. Many times, they return to the sea without nesting if an obstacle is encountered.

For this reason, it is very important to keep our beaches free of debris and potential obstacles.


Scene showing inland skyglow reaching the beach

Sea Turtles Dig The Dark

 Artificial lighting has been linked to hatchlings becoming "disorientated" where they crawl toward the artificial light instead of the natural light of the horizon.  The picture above shows how lights along the coast from buildings and even miles inland (sky glow) can disorient hatchlings guiding them away from the ocean.

 
Turn off coastal lights (even flashlights and phones) while on the beach at night.
 
If you live inland, turn off lights when not needed - your light is called sky glow and it can travel for miles.

Sea Turtle Nest Sign on Beach

YOU Can Help

Do not disturb sea turtles, nests, or eggs - it's the law!

If you encounter a nesting turtle, keep lights off, remain still, and keep your distance.

Be careful at the beach, not all nests are marked and eggs are only 1 - 3 feet below the surface.

Do not disturb nest markers  - organizations monitor sea turtles.

Reduce litter and marine debris - especially fishing line and plastic.

Keep pets away from nesting females, nests, and hatchlings.

Be mindful on the water, sea turtles swim offshore and inshore waters all year long, frequently surfacing to breathe and thus are susceptable to boat strikes.

Report all dead, injured, or stranded sea turtles or harassment of adults, hatchlings, or nests to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922).

Go on an approved sea turtle walk with a licensed guide:

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, (Boca Raton)

MacArthur Beach State Park, (North Palm Beach) 

Loggerhead Marinelife Center, (Juno Beach)

PBC ERM**

**Link goes to email notification list OR follow us @pbcerm for walk times

ERM Staff Conducting Early Morning Beach Survey for Signs of Sea Turtle Nesting Activity

ERM's Sea Turtle Program began 25 years ago - one of the first in Florida 

 

Palm Beach County has been involved in monitoring sea turtle activities in our area by collecting data on sea turtle health and behavior, nesting activities, hatchling success rates, presence in our nearshore and inshore waterways, impacts from coastal construction such as beach renourishment projects, as well as influences from natural occurrences like tropical weather patterns and storms.

ERM also administers beachfront lighting regulations along the coast to prevent coastal lighting from causing sea turtle disorientations.

To view more information on Beachfront Lighting Permits, click link icon here.