Sea turtles have won the hearts of many of Fort Lauderdale's neighbors, visitors, and others throughout the world. While they are truly amazing, graceful, and beautiful sea creatures, many species of sea turtles are both threatened and endangered. It is up to us to help increase the life expectancy of sea turtles and ensure they are around for centuries to come.
What Should You Do to Help Our Sea Turtles?
The information and links provided below will help you protect sea turtles and ensure their populations grow.
At the beach
- Avoid marked off sea turtle nests and stay away from nesting and/or hatching sea turtles. Never approach or try to help sea turtle hatchlings.
- Cut the plastic rings from the top of six-packs of canned beverages before throwing them away. This will keep turtles and other marine life from getting their heads caught in them should they fall out of the trash.
- Never leave litter on the beach, especially plastic bags. Properly dispose of your garbage and other trash you may find on the beach in either a trash or recycling container. Turtles can become tangled in plastic or fishing line. They may also mistake plastic bags, Styrofoam, fishing line, balloons, cigarette butts and other trash on the beach or in the water as food. If eaten, it could result in injury or death for a sea turtle.
- Leave the beach as you found it. Make sure to fill any holes or level any mounds (including sandcastles) that you may have created while visiting the beach. Also, never leave tents, chairs, toys or other objects on the beach overnight because they can obstruct baby sea turtles trying to find a clear path to the ocean upon hatching.
- Avoid going to the ocean at night during turtle nesting season. The fewer disturbances sea turtles face, the more likely the chances that turtle nesting efforts will be successful.
At home or work
- Reduce lawn, home, and business chemical use. Chemicals can find their way into our waterways through the storm drain system. These chemicals kill marine plants and animals. A better choice is to purchase environmentally friendly, biodegradable alternatives. Also, make sure to properly dispose of all poisonous chemicals at a local Household Hazardous Waste Center.
- Avoid releasing helium balloons to celebrate events, especially at or near the beach. Like plastic trash, balloons may end up in the ocean. Sea turtles can mistake the plastic for food and become seriously injured and even die if they eat it.
- Seek out volunteer and educational opportunities. Get involved in beach and waterway cleanup events. Visit local nature centers and parks to learn more about protecting sea turtles and our coastal ecosystems.
On the boat
- Boaters should stay alert and avoid sea turtles and other marine mammals, such as manatees and dolphins. Sea turtles and other marine mammals hit by boats or propellers can become seriously injured and even die. Always stay in marked channels and never anchor boats in sea grass beds and coral reefs where sea turtles and other marine mammals often rest.
- Recycle used monofilament fishing line in containers provided at all City marinas and boat ramps. Every year, hundreds of thousands of birds, sea turtles, and marine wildlife are killed because they get entangled in fishing line or eat plastics they mistake for food.
- Properly stow all loose items, especially plastic bags, on your boat and bring all of your trash back to shore. Separate trash for easy recycling or disposal. Never throw any trash into the ocean. Use reusable versus plastic bags.
- Make sure boats, especially live aboards, are equipped with a properly functioning sewage pump out device and always empty waste holding tanks at approved marine pump out stations. Raw sewage in waterways contains disease-causing bacteria that are a health hazard to both humans and marine plants and animals.
What Should You Do If You See Adult or Hatchling Sea Turtles?
- If you come upon a nesting sea turtle, walk away quietly. It's that simple!
- Never take photos (with or without flash) of a nesting sea turtle, shine lights on it, or make loud noise. This will disrupt the nesting process. Again, simply walk away.
- Disturbing a nesting turtle, or scaring or disorienting it could cause her to abandon her nesting attempt. This is known as a false crawl. If the turtle returns to the sea without nesting as a result of human interference this could be considered a violation of the state Marine Turtle Protection Act or the federal Endangered Species Act.
Reporting Sea Turtle Emergencies
- To report turtle-related life safety emergencies, such as stranded, dead, injured, or visibly unhealthy turtles, please call the Sea Turtle Emergency Line at 954-328-0580. For non-emergency situations, or general information about sea turtles in Broward County, please contact Broward County's Natural Resources Planning and Management Division at 954-519-1255.
- It is normal for sea turtles to crawl on the beach on summer nights. DO NOT report normal crawling or nesting (digging or laying eggs) activity on the Sea Turtle Emergency Line unless the animal is in a dangerous situation (on a road, in a parking lot, etc.) or has wandered off the beach.
Reporting Sea Turtle Violations
- If you observe someone doing any of the following, please contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 561-357-4200 or 888-404-FWCC (3922) as these actions are illegal.
- Harassing a nesting sea turtle or a hatchling
- Harming (includes shooting, wounding, trapping, killing, capturing, chasing, or hunting) a sea turtle or hatchling
- Touching or handling a sea turtle or hatchling
- Disturbing a sea turtle nest
- Stealing sea turtle eggs or hatchlings from a nest