About Miami-Dade County’s Sea Turtles
Miami-Dade County’s most common nesting sea turtle is the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Florida serves as one of the largest nesting aggregations for loggerhead sea turtles in the world. Miami-Dade County beaches are also important nesting habitat for the green (Chelonia mydas), and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtles. Both inshore and offshore waters offer developmental habitat for all of our nesting sea turtles and often other species such as the Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imricata) sea turtles can also be found foraging in nearby waters.
Protecting Sea Turtle Habitats
All sea turtles are either threatened or endangered. They are protected under federal, state and local laws. The following threaten the sea turtle population:
- Artificial lighting and urban sky glow
- Boating traffic
- Plastic ingestion
- Entanglement with fishing gear
- Coastal development and loss of nesting habitat
Sea Turtles are protected by the US Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida Statute Chapter 370. It is illegal to harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings. Any interaction, use of lights (cell phones, flash photos), entering a marked nest area, damaging a nest (marked or unmarked), digging into the nest (marked or unmarked), and the possession of sea turtles and their eggs and/or eggshells is considered harassment and/or unauthorized take under the Florida Marine Turtle Protection Act (379.2431(1), F.S.) and federal Endangered Species Act.
Sea turtle nesting season in Miami-Dade County runs from April 1 to October 31. However, nesting can occur before or after these dates. Monitoring times can also change with permitting requirements for approved beach projects. Sea Turtle Conservation Program (STCP) staff work under a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued Marine Turtle permit to survey the majority of County beaches, including seven municipalities and two County parks. STCP authorized personnel work under the FWC nesting survey permit (#MTP-017), and it is issued to the STCP manager.
About 600 nests are laid on Miami-Dade County beaches every year. During nesting season, surveys are conducted daily to monitor, record and study all sea turtle nesting activity. If a crawl is determined to have resulted in a nest, staff mark off the area with stakes, neon tape and a nest sign to protect the nest during incubation.
Each nest will have approximately 100 hatchlings that will emerge and make their way to the ocean. Once in the water, it is thought that only one out of a thousand hatchlings will actually survive to adulthood, making conservation efforts incredibly important for the species.
What You Can Do to Help Protect Sea Turtles
When you are on the beach, it is important to take preventative measures to protect sea turtles. Here are a few things you can do:
- Avoid using flashlights, lanterns or flash photography while on the beach at night.
- Turn off or shield lights, close drapes/blinds to prevent lights from shining onto the beach. Lights disturb nesting turtles and hatchlings.
- Fill in holes and knock down sandcastles to make the beach safe for sea turtles.
- Make sure to remove all items, such as beach chairs, from the beach at night.
- Steer clear of marked sea turtles nests. Do not touch or disturb nesting sea turtles, hatchlings of their nests.
- Keep the beach and water clean. Properly dispose of garbage and do not litter.
Reporting a Dead, Sick or Injured Sea Turtle on the Beach
The Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program (MDCSTCP) responds to reports of dead or injured sea turtles throughout all of Miami-Dade County. Data such as species, size, and condition of turtle, are recorded on a standardized data sheet that is submitted to the Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network, which in Florida, is coordinated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Collecting data on these stranding sea turtles, even those which are deceased is vital in helping to understand this species as they spend most of their lives at sea and this can make studying them difficult. All strandings need to be responded to ASAP and the information is reported to the state within 48 hours of the stranding.
- For sick, injured and/or disoriented adult or hatchling turtles, please call Miami-Dade County’s stranding e-line at 305-310-3046.
- If you are unable to reach them, leave a message and contact FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 1-888-404-3922.
Please be prepared to answer the following questions:
- What is the exact location of the animal?
- Is the turtle alive or dead?
- What is the approximate size of the turtle?
- Is the turtle marked with spray paint?
- What is the location of the closest access point to the turtle?
*During your phone call, you may receive further instructions from MDCSTCP staff on what to do depending on the status of the sea turtle.