Nesting Sea Turtles Are Thriving on Florida’s Empty Beaches
Florida’s vacant beaches have become a paradise for nesting sea turtles.
With the state’s beaches closed in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, researchers say that sea turtles have been able to build without any disruptions—good news for the threatened creatures.
David Godfrey, Executive Director for the Sea Turtle Conservancy told CNN that less garbage, fewer people, and less disorientation caused by artificial lights for hatchlings, bodes well for this year’s nesting season.
It’s currently nesting season for leatherback turtles on the central east and southeast coast of Florida. During the 60 days it takes for the eggs to incubate and for hatchlings to emerge, nests are at the mercy of humans.
On an active beach, nests can be trampled or dug up. With an inactive beach, however, the situation might be quite different.
"I think there is a strong likelihood that we will see decreased human-caused impacts on sea turtle nesting this year, which is a rare silver lining to this global pandemic," Godfrey said. "It's premature to try and use numbers to demonstrate what we all think, and hope is happening. The numbers just aren't there yet. I hear that the season is going pretty well so far, it's off to a good start."
Despite the positive news, Dr. Justin Perrault, Director of Research at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach told CNN that his team fears an influx of people flocking to the beach as the closures are lifted.
"It just depends on the behavior of people after the closures end," he explained "And if there's an excessive amount on the beaches, then more people means more interaction with turtles, which can be negative if they don't follow the rules."
As people have already begun to return to Florida’s beaches, Perrault said it’s essential that they keep lights off when possible, maintain distance from marine animals, and leave the beach the way they found it.
"Remember that we're not the only species out there," he said.
This story originally appeared on Southern Living.