The Miami-Dade Park and Recreation Department's Sea Turtle Conservation Program has worked hard to allow sea turtle activity to prosper in the area. Today, the program has documented over 6,886 nests, which has resulted in the release of over 550,300 hatchlings.
The Sea Turtle Awareness program takes place each summer at the Crandon Park Visitors & Nature Center and at Haulover Park. This program allows visitors to learn about different sea turtle species and their life cycle, as well as some of the dangers they face throughout their lives. Participants can come face to face with hatchlings and join them as they embark on their exciting journey into the depths of the ocean.
The Sea Turtle Awareness program consists of a 45 minute PowerPoint presentation, followed by a trip out to the beach to release Loggerhead hatchlings. Participating groups will be able to watch the hatchlings start their journey out to sea. Due to all sea turtles being protected by the Endangered Species Act no one besides the permitted staff are allowed to handle the hatchlings.
The program normally runs from late July through the end of August from 8:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Reservations are required. You can call on July 1st to make a reservation. The program is offered multiple times each week at Crandon Park Visitors & Nature Center and Haulover Park. Most of the days fall on the weekend (Friday, Saturday & Sundays). The program cost is $6 per person.
For more information, please call 305-361-6767 ext. 120 or visit the Sea Turtle Awareness Program Web Site.
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What to do if you see a sea turtle
If you observe an adult sea turtle or hatchling sea turtle on the beach, please adhere to the following rules and guidelines:
· It is normal for sea turtles to be crawling on the beach on summer nights. DO NOT report normal crawling or nesting (digging or laying eggs) to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission unless the turtle is in a dangerous situation or has wandered off the beach. (on a road, in parking lot, etc.)
· Stay away from crawling or nesting sea turtles. Although the urge to observe closely will be great, please resist. Nesting is a critical stage in the sea turtle's life cycle. Please leave them undisturbed.
· DO REPORT all stranded (dead or injured) turtles to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
· NEVER handle hatchling sea turtles. If you observe hatchlings wandering away from the ocean or on the beach, call: 1-888-404-FWCC or *FWC (Mobile Phone).
How you can help
Without the support of the public, the survival of sea turtles on our planet is doubtful. Here are some ways you and other citizens of Miami-Dade can help:
· As much as possible, refrain from walking on the beach at night during the summer months (March though mid-September.). No matter how quiet, humans will often - and unknowingly - frighten nesting sea turtles back into the sea.
· Keep bright lights from shining onto the beach, build shades around the light so the beach is not directly illuminated. The bright lights will disorient hatchlings.
· 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).
· Do not dispose of plastic bags or trash in the ocean. Plastic bags very closely resemble jelly fish, a favorite food of sea turtles, and will cause illness or death to turtles and other marine life that eat them.
· Stay clear of marked sea turtle nests on the beach.
Coastal residents and visitors can help ensure successful nesting of threatened and endangered sea turtles by:
• Ensuring beach-repair work is completed before nesting turtles arrive
• Removing all equipment, beach furniture and other potential obstructions from the beach at night, when nesting females and hatchlings need to move unimpeded across the sand
• Managing artificial light at night by turning off lights when not in use, closing curtains and shades, and shielding lights needed for human safety so no light is visible from the beach.
Nesting and hatchling sea turtles may become confused by artificial nighttime lighting and head in the wrong direction when trying to find the water. If confused hatchlings end up heading landward instead of toward the sea, they often die from dehydration, get run over or become prey for raccoons, ghost crabs and fire ants.
Each year, about 2,500 FWC-permitted volunteers patrol more than 800 miles of sandy shoreline around the state on a regular basis, scanning the beach for leatherback, loggerhead and green turtle nests. The marine turtle permit holders mark and count nests and educate the public about protecting turtles, eggs and hatchings.
Eggs in most nests will have finished incubation and hatch by the official close of nesting season on Oct. 31, although green turtles may continue laying eggs into October.
Last year was a good one for sea turtle nesting on Florida beaches, especially for loggerheads, which had a record number of nests statewide. Based on a monitoring program the FWC began in 1989, loggerhead nesting had continued a positive overall trend after several years of decline. Leatherback and green turtle nesting also had improved.
The FWC reminds beachgoers that it is illegal to disturb sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings. The loggerhead is listed as a federally threatened species, and the leatherback and green turtle are federally endangered species. State law restricts things like beach renourishment and repairs on structures such as seawalls during nesting season, which continues through October.
1. Florida Turtle Conservation Trust
2. Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Awareness Program Presentations and Outreach
3. Sea Turtle Facts