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TikTok's #holedigging trend has environmentalists concerned for sea turtles

The 'beach hole digging trend' is gaining popularity. And it's happening smack dab in the middle of turtle nesting season.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — There's a new TikTok trend making the rounds this summer. The #holedigging challenge shows people digging massive holes on the beach. Not your cute little sand castle mote — we're talking 10 feet wide and 5 feet deep holes. 

While it all sounds like harmless fun, when those massive holes are left behind, they pose a serious threat to sea turtles.

Florida is in the middle of its sea turtle nesting season. It's this time of year when turtles shimmy ashore to lay their eggs. Once those eggs are ready, tiny turtles hatch and crawl back to the water. 

Turtles need a clean, flat and dark beach for this to all happen. They already swerve around trash and sand castles left on the beaches. But now there is a new and far more daunting obstacle. 

Large holes have been reportedly spotted on Pinellas County beaches. 

"Unfortunately we are," Lindsey Flynn, the program manager of Clearwater Marine Aquarium's Sea Turtle Conservation, said when asked if they're seeing giant holes. "There are plenty of holes that are seen throughout our survey area."

Flynn said she's unsure if these holes are a part of any social media challenges. But nonetheless, they create obstacles for turtles. 

"Our hatchlings are only a few inches long," Flynn said. "So not only are these large holes a problem, but even small holes can be a problem for them. It's like falling into the Grand Canyon."

There are groups that help. Keep Pinellas Beautiful encourages beach clean-up volunteers to smash abandoned sand castles and fill holes as they make their way up and down the beaches. 

"I would say, when we do our cleanups, we see the holes in there on a daily basis," Pat Deplasco, the executive director of Keep Pinellas Beautiful, said. 

The easiest way to avoid accidentally harming sea turtles while at the beach? The Sea Turtle Conservation program asks you to leave the beach as you found it. Exactly as you found it. This means no litter, no sand castles and no digging giant holes. 

It's illegal to touch a sea turtle without proper permitting. If you notice the animal is struggling, there are a number of organizations listed here you can reach out to in order to let the right people know an animal is in danger and needs assistance. Contact CMA’s 24-hr Rescue Hotline at 727 441-1790 x 1 if you find any marine animal in distress in the Tampa Bay area.

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