Leatherback sea turtles show up early this season

Some killed and injured

By Mark Collins - Meteorologist

This leatherback sea turtle was struck by a vessel and later died. It is the only sea turtle with out a hard shell. A gash is visible on the leathery carapace.

Sea turtle sightings have increased even before the nesting season gets underway, and normally this would be a good thing but it's starting out distressing. 

The Florida Wildlife Commission reports several leatherback sea turtles are in the nearshore waters from St. Augustine to Fernandina Beach and, sadly, some are injured.

A leatherback turtle was struck by a vessel and later died. Another leatherback had to be untangled by the FWC from a commercial blue crab trap. 

The leatherback is the largest, deepest diving, and most migratory and wide ranging of all sea turtles.

It can tolerate cold water like what we get offshore Jacksonville in the winter. 

Many turtles die from pollution. Discarded fishing lines and plastic bags are a strangulation hazard. Beach trash and artificial lighting can trap and disorient turtle hatchlings. 

Day sailing boats like Hobie Cats and beach furniture are often stored on the beach blocking turtles path. After a day's play it is important to remove these items and fill in any large holes that can trap turtles.

May 1 is the official start of the nesting season in Northeast Florida, and it will be important to keep a sharp lookout for leatherback sea turtles while boating.

Any entangled, injured or dead turtles can be reported to FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-FWCC (3922).