Florida Storm May Toss Sea Turtles Ashore: How to Help
As waves from Hurricane Irene pound sandy Atlantic beaches along Florida's east coast, they bring more than debris to shore. Small sea turtles carried from their offshore homes of floating seaweed can be cast up on the beach by the waves.
Green, leatherback, hawksbill and Kemp's ridley turtles are federally endangered species, and the loggerhead turtle is a federally threatened species. As a result, people wanting to help these creatures should be aware of some requirements so they don't find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) does not recommend going to the beach specifically to search for and rescue stranded sea turtles. However if you are on the beach and see a small sea turtle onshore that is obviously stranded and not attempting to move into the waves, please be aware of the following:
- Though it is illegal to possess a sea turtle (alive or dead) or its eggs without an appropriate FWC permit, carrying the animal directly to one of the facilities listed below will be acceptable during storm conditions.
- Put the sea turtle on a damp cloth or towel in a small container, cover it and keep it in the shade - but not in air conditioning. Never put the sea turtle into water. The turtle is probably exhausted and will do best in the conditions described above. Do not crowd several animals into one container.
- Do not take the sea turtle home, leave it in your car or carry it to any place other than one of the specified facilities. Each facility has security staff or a covered cooler or box where sea turtles can be left safely.
- Help only sea turtles lying on the sand and not moving into the water. Do not dig into a marked sea turtle nest or remove small hatchlings from the sand. Eggs that are rolling around in the surf or on the beach probably will not produce hatchlings. Stiff penalties may be imposed for violations of the Endangered Species Act if the beachgoer removes the eggs from the beach without permission from FWC staff.
The following facilities should have containers available to receive sea turtles at any hour:
- Miami Seaquarium, 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, 305-361-5705; www.miamiseaquarium.com; Lifeguard stands/stations on the beach
Palm Beach County
- Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, 1801 N. Ocean Blvd., Boca Raton, 561-338-1473; www.gumbolimbo.org
- Loggerhead Marinelife Center, 14200 U.S. Highway 1, Juno Beach, 561-627-8280; www.marinelife.org
- Florida Oceanographic Society, 890 N.E. Ocean Blvd., Stuart, 772-225-0505; www.floridaocean.org
- Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge & Hobe Sound Nature Center, 13640 S.E. Federal Highway, Hobe Sound, 772-546-2067, no drop-offs on Sunday (closed); http://hobesoundnaturecenter.com
Indian River/Brevard counties
- Sea Turtle Preservation Society, Melbourne Beach, 321-676-1701; www.seaturtlespacecoast.org
- Barrier Island Sanctuary, 8385 South A1A, Melbourne Beach, 321-723-3556; http://barrierislandcenter.com
- Marine Science Center, 100 Lighthouse Drive Ponce Inlet, 386-304-5544; http://marinesciencecenter.com
For more information, please call the FWC's Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), or call #FWC or *FWC from your cell phone.