FLORIDA, USA — World Turtle Day is honored on May 23 every year.
It began as a way to celebrate the reptile while also raising awareness for protecting them and their disappearing habitats across the world, the World Turtle Day website states.
In Florida, sea turtles are not in the best condition.
Sea turtles live a long life, 40 to 60 years to be exact, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
However, the FWC wrote on their website all five of the Sunshine State's sea turtle species are listed as either endangered or threatened.
The hawksbill, green, leatherback and Kemp's ridley turtle are listed as endangered, while the loggerhead turtle is listed as threatened.
Under the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to harass, kill or harm any sea turtles, their eggs or hatchlings, according to the FWC. It is also illegal to sell, import or transport turtles or any of their products.
Key factors that threaten the lives of turtles in Florida are human predation, commercial fishing, artificial lighting, pollution and ingestion of plastic and other litter in the water or near beach shores.
How can someone do their part and help protect sea turtles in the state? The FWC listed some tips on their website which can be read below.
- Organize or join a beach clean-up day. Check with organizations or schools in your area to become involved in clearing the beaches of trash that could be harmful to wildlife.
- Do not leave fishing line behind. This entangles many types of wildlife including sea turtles.
- Do not feed sea turtles or other wildlife. This encourages them to approach people in high-traffic areas.
- Never buy products made from sea turtles.
- Reduce the amount of plastic garbage you produce.
- Turn off the lights! Keep beachfront lights off, or decrease artificial lights with curtains, etc. throughout the night from May to October as they can confuse sea turtles during the mating season.
- Oppose coastal armoring. The fewer obstacles sea turtles have to overcome, the better their chances of successful nesting.
- Reduce the amount of fertilizers you use. Ordinary lawn and garden fertilizers wash into coastal waters killing plants and animals. Look for biodegradable alternatives, and correctly dispose of used toxic chemicals.
For anyone who comes across a sea turtles or hatchlings on the beach, the FWC recommends people to watch from a distance, keep any and all lights off, leave the turtles in their nest and let them crawl to the water by themselves.
The FWC encourages people who see stranded turtles or hatchlings in a parking lot, road or anywhere else besides the water to call 1-888-404-FWCC or *FWC from a cell phone.
To learn more about sea turtles and how to protect them, click here.