Headed to the beach? Here’s how you can help protect sea turtles, shorebirds this Labor Day

Be a holiday hero this Labor Day weekend

People made their way to Jacksonville Beach on Labor Day. (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – People notoriously flock to the beach during Labor Day weekend and we want to remind you to help keep our beaches clean and our wildlife safe.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminded the public on Thursday that sea turtles and shorebirds are still reliant on Florida’s beaches for nesting.

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You can help nesting sea turtles and their emerging hatchlings, along with shorebirds and flightless chicks, by giving them space, removing beach gear at night, keeping beaches clean and dark, and filling in holes dug in the sand before you leave, FWC said. Any interference, including artificial lights and getting too close, can cause hatchlings to be confused and lose their way, endangering their chances at survival.

Shorebirds and seabirds are also dependent on our beaches for successful nesting, resting and migrating. Giving shorebirds and seabirds space to rest and forage benefits them all year.

Both sea turtles and shorebirds can benefit when beachgoers take a few simple actions when at the beach. Be a holiday hero this Labor Day weekend and help our vulnerable sea turtles and shorebirds:

  • Close curtains after dark to help ensure nesting turtles are not disturbed by interior lights as they come ashore and hatchlings are not disoriented as they emerge from their nests. Make sure any required exterior lighting adjacent to nesting beaches is long, low and shielded. Avoid using any color flashlight, cell phone lights and taking flash photos after dark on the beach.
  • Clear the way at the end of the day to help nesting sea turtles, emerging hatchlings and shorebirds. Obstacles on the beach and holes in the sand can trap or prevent sea turtle hatchlings from reaching the water and adult sea turtles from being able to nest, so it is important to remove all beach toys and furniture before leaving. If you or your family dig a hole on the beach, keep it closer to the water line to avoid active sea turtle nests and make sure you fill it back in before leaving to avoid trapping sea turtles and hatchlings as well as flightless shorebird chicks. Trash and food scraps attract predators that can prey on sea turtle hatchlings and flightless shorebirds, so it is important to properly dispose of these items after a day at the beach.
  • Give sea turtles, emerging hatchlings and shorebirds space. Getting too close to sea turtle hatchlings or nesting sea turtles can prevent them from getting to where they need to go. If an animal changes its behavior when you approach, that is a sign that you might be too close.
  • If you find a sea turtle hatchling or adult sea turtle in distress, immediately call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotlineat 888-404-FWCC (3922).

For more information about nesting sea turtles and how you can help, visit MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle or see the FWC’s “Be a Beach Hero” brochure. For more information about nesting shorebirds, go to MyFWC.com/Shorebirds and download the “Share the Beach with Beach-Nesting Birds” brochure.

About the Author:

Carianne Luter is a social media producer for News4Jax and has worked at Channel 4 since December 2015. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a degree in communications.