WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — It is sea turtle nesting season on the Gulf coast, and many people— tourists and locals alike— aren’t aware of some of the safety practices to keep sea turtles thriving during this time.
Turtle watch groups across the Panhandle are educating beachgoers about how to keep conditions favorable for nesting turtles.
Barb Van Stavern with the South Walton Turtle Watch wants to inform visitors to keep beaches clean, dark and flat.
“Picking up all your belongings so they don’t become obstacles to sea turtles is really important,” Van Stavern said. “Turning off those lights on buildings at night and using red lights only if you’re out on the beach at night… Filling in those holes, keeping those turtles from falling in and keeping people safe as well.”
Some people hunt for crabs on the beach at night, and oftentimes use regular flashlights.
Van Stavern said these lights could distract sea turtles that are actively nesting, or blind the unhatched turtles still in their eggs.
“They need nice dark beaches so that they can safely find their way back to the water. Artificial light is very disorienting so if you’re out at the beaches hunting at night for crabs, using red lights will be helpful,” Van Stavern said. “Turning off all those beachfront lights on condos and buildings is very good too, so amber or red lights are really best for sea turtles.”
Jason Cutshaw with Visit South Walton said the visitor center offers guests special flashlights and red light filter stickers to put over regular flashlights suitable for safe crab hunting.
Van Stavern would like to remind beachgoers if you see a stranded or deceased sea turtle, call the Turtle Watch Hotline at (850) 865-4503 before taking any other action.