2016 Could Be “Really Big Year” For Sea Turtles

If Amelia Island’s sea turtle nesting trend continues throughout the season, 2016 may be a record breaker for this northeast Florida barrier island.

If Amelia Island’s sea turtle nesting trend continues throughout the season, 2016 may be a record breaker for this northeast Florida barrier island.

As of June 8, 2016, the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch, a volunteer group monitoring the beach daily, reported having marked 77 nests, way ahead by comparison to 41 for the same period last year. This seems to bode well for the ancient mariners, arriving ashore in the dark of night, digging nests along the beachfront and depositing eggs (season runs May 1 to October 31). UPDATE: As of June 29, 2016, the total sea turtle nest count has more than doubled to 176! (A dozen nests were marked on June 11th alone — this might be a one-day record here!)

More good news for the sea turtles this year is the new Amelia Island beach ordinance that began enforcement on the first day of June 2016. The ordinance requires that all beach gear — basically everything carried onto the beach — to be carried off by beachgoers by 8 pm each evening.

Amelia Island Sea Turtle Nest. Tracks Show Tent Obstacle (Left Overnight)
Amelia Island Sea Turtle Nest. Tracks Show Tent Obstacle (Left Overnight)

Beach chairs, shelters, tents, towels, etc., remaining on the beach after 8 pm will be removed and discarded. Anything left along the seashore overnight can become a potential obstacle to nesting sea turtles, sometimes causing false crawls (i.e. U-turns) or entanglements.

Watch Turtle Nest Excavations

Photo: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Rescued During Nest Excavation, Amelia Island
Sea Turtle Hatchlings Rescued During Nest Excavation on Amelia

Want to learn more about sea turtles? A great educational activity available on Amelia Island is attending nest digs that begin to occur about two months after the first nests are marked (typically starting around mid-July and ending in early October, depending when last nest was marked).

The Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch website is the source online to monitor the nest excavation schedule. Check it out daily starting in July to find out when and where a nest will be excavated. There’s not much lead time, typically announced a couple of days in advance of the excavation. Most of the nest digs popularly attended happen in the early evening around 7 pm. However, in recent years, early morning excavations have been scheduled, as well.

Kids and adults alike enjoy these digs and the narrative provided by the Turtle Watch volunteer who conducts the excavation. It’s an excellent seaside opportunity to learn more about coastal nature.

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