Published On: Thu, Feb 14th, 2019

Turtle Talk

By Robert S Weinroth

Sea turtle nesting season officially starts in March.  Within the next few months, over 2 million hatchlings are expected to emerge from approximately 30,000 nests on beaches countywide. The process starts when female sea turtles crawl ashore at night to lay their eggs.  It usually takes about one to three hours for the turtles to dig the nest and lay between 80 to 120 eggs (shaped like ping pong balls).

Nests are located approximately 18 inches below the surface, and are typically located above the hide-tide area on the dry beach area. Eggs and nests must remain undisturbed in the warm sand for the 47 to 60 days before they hatch. The majority of the hatching occurs between July through September. Hatchlings usually emerge from their nests as a group at night. After digging out, the hatchlings crawl along the beach to the water where they must swim for many hours to reach the open sea. 

Unfortunately, thousands of hatchlings die every year in their attempt to reach the water. Instinctively, newly hatched sea turtles follow the natural light reflected on the water by the moon and waves. However, they become disoriented by artificial light from homes, businesses, street lights and cars, and crawl in the wrong direction. Consequently, they die from exhaustion, dehydration, predators and debris. 

Here are some simple tips to help protect sea turtles

• Beaches must be kept free of debris and potential obstacles. Sea turtles have poor vision on land and cannot go backwards. Many times, they return to sea without nesting if an obstacle is encountered.
• Do not disturb sea turtles, nests or eggs; it’s against the law. 
• If you encounter a nesting turtle, keep lights off, remain still and keep your distance. 
• Keep flashlights and phones off while on the beach at night. 
• Keep pets away from nesting females, nests and hatchlings. 
• Do not disturb nest markers. Numerous organizations including the county’s Environmental Resource Department monitors sea turtles. 
• Operate your boat with caution. Sea turtles are found offshore, nearshore and inshore and have to surface to breath. 
• If you find a disoriented hatchling, it can be brought to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center where it will be nursed to health and released for its trip to meet its brothers and sisters.

Sea turtle facts: 

• Sea turtles are among the oldest creatures on earth, unchanged for over a million years.
• After epic migrations at sea around the world, loggerhead sea turtles return to almost the exact spot where they were born to mate and lay their own eggs.  Reportedly, this is based on the coastline’s magnetic signature, which the turtle remembers and uses as an internal compass. 
• Sand temperature can determine gender. For example, cooler sand tends to produce male hatchlings. 
• Palm Beach County has more sea turtle nests per mile than anywhere else in the United States.

Source: National Geographic 

Supervised sea turtle walks are available at locations throughout Palm Beach County such as Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton. For more information on sea turtles and walks, visit http://discover.pbcgov.org/erm/Publications/SeaTurtleWalks

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 27 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman, former member of the City Council (where he served for four years) and currently serves as an elected member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Supreme Court of the United States. Weinroth served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services Inc, an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. After serving on multiple community boards and committees, Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2014. During his tenure, he served as CRA Vice-chair and Deputy Mayor and was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport Authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. As a newly elected County Commissioner, Weinroth has been appointed Vice-Chair of the Solid Waste Authority, a board member of the PBC Transportation Planning Agency, and alternate representative on the Treasure Coast Planning Agency and several other county and regional boards. Robert, Pamela and their two dogs, Sierra and Siggy, are proud to call Boca Raton home.

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