Help your local sea turtles
Sea turtles will be crawling up on Anna Maria Island's beaches to nest any day now, and beachgoers can do several things to help them nest successfully.
"Anyone spending time on Florida's beaches can do something to help save Florida's threatened and endangered sea turtles. People's actions on the beach can have a positive impact on whether our loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles nest successfully," said Dr. Robbin Trindell, who leads the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) sea turtle management program.
For example, leave the beach as natural as possible by removing beach furniture and other obstacles before sunset each day.
"Whether you are a resident or a visitor, remember to take beach furniture, boats and canopies off Florida's sandy beaches at night so these items won't block sea turtles attempting to nest," Trindell said.
"When departing at the end of the day, beach visitors should fill any holes dug in the sand so nesting and hatchling turtles don't become trapped. Please be careful not to disturb nesting sea turtles by getting too close, shining lights on them or taking flash photos."
At this time of year, FWC-authorized marine turtle permit holders and volunteers begin their annual ritual of walking beaches each morning to look for crawls resembling tire tracks. Crawls indicate that a sea turtle has landed and nested on a beach the previous night. Nests are marked with yellow stakes and plastic tape, since sea turtles and their eggs are protected by law. The monitoring continues through Oct. 31, the official end of sea turtle nesting season.
Exactly when sea turtle nesting season starts depends on where you are in Florida. While it begins in March on the Atlantic coast, it starts later in the spring, in late April or May, along the Gulf coast.
In Bradenton Beach, lighting inspections will begin the first week of May, according to Gail Garneau, code enforcement officer for the city of Bradenton Beach.
"The city advises property owners or its agents to take a proactive approach to monitor their properties for compliance during the nesting sea turtle season," she said. "If literature is needed to provide to lodgers, please let us know."
All property owners must turn off or shield lights (including rope lighting) from sunset to sunrise that are visible from the beach as direct point sources of light. In addition, all beach furniture and related beach items must be pulled back behind the frontal dune line to avoid nesting sea turtles from becoming entangled in furniture, she said.
To qualify for beach renourishment, Anna Maria Island cities must make a serious and cooperative effort to protect endangered species such as the sea turtles and shorebirds.
In the 2016 sea turtle nesting season, more than 120,000 loggerhead nests, more than 5,000 green turtle nests and more than 1,000 leatherback nests were documented by the FWC. With Florida hosting nearly 90 percent of loggerhead nests within this species' northern Atlantic Ocean population, the state plays an important role in its conservation.
You can help sea turtles by reporting those that are sick, injured, entangled or dead to the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline, 888-404-FWCC (3922), #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone, or text Tip@MyFWC.com.
Purchase of a Helping Sea Turtles Survive Florida license plate at www.Buyaplate.com contributes to sea turtle research, rescue and conservation efforts. People also can donate $5 and receive an FWC sea turtle decal.
Go to MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle for information on Florida's sea turtles and how to get decals, and click on "Research," then "Nesting" for more data on sea turtle nesting.