March 1st marks the beginning of Turtle Nesting season. This is the time of year when the mature sea turtle makes its way to the beach shore and lays its eggs into a nest under the sand for an incubation period of several months when the eggs eventually hatch and the young baby turtles find their way back to the sea. This process is fraught with many challenges from nature, but many from mankind as well. Some of the greatest impacts’ humans can have on these nests and young turtles are trampling of the buried nests and artificial light from homes and buildings which the newborn turtles are attracted to, thinking it is the moonlight leading them back to sea. These difficulties, along with habitat loss, poaching and climate change have caused most sea turtles to be placed on the endangered species list.
To mitigate these issues, the State of Florida and the Town of Highland Beach, have implemented laws and ordinances to protect the sea turtles and help regrow their population. One prevention step is to limit the amount and type of artificial light exposed to the beach shore at night. All condominiums, single family homes and commercial properties in the Town of Highland beach are required to have “Turtle Safe” lighting installed at all points visible from the beach. This will minimize confusion for the young hatchlings so they can safely make their way out to the sea.
Please be aware it is illegal to harass, harm or kill any turtle or it’s eggs or nest. Research centers like the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton identify new turtle nests during the season and protect the area so that the nests are not unintentionally destroyed by beachgoers or maintenance vehicles. If you are aware of a turtle nest which has not been identified or barriers that have been compromised, or if you have found a sick or injured turtle, you can call the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 1-888-404-FWCC or Barbara Blanid James, Town of Highland Beach Sea Turtle Permit Holder at 561-289-1109.
These laws, in addition to other environmental protection efforts, have proven very effective in rejuvenating the turtle population that visits our beaches every year. In fact, 2019 was a record-breaking year of turtle nesting sites for many of the organizations that monitor the turtle population, such as Gumbo Limbo, which counted over 1,300 nests last season. If you have questions about Turtle lighting, nest protection, or any other concern about our beaches please call the Town of Highland Beach Code Compliance Department at 561-278-4540.