■ STAFF REPORT
The best thing to do if you find hatchlings that appear to be in dire jeopardy from red tide is to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hotline ((888) 404-FWCC) and report it. The FWC will then contact a member of the Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association.
This allows the FWC to track and document every element of the stranding, and then they can make contact with turtle patrollers on the island. There are rehabilitation agencies in the area, and the turtle patrol can get the hatchling(s) to the place that is most appropriate and has room for the hatchling(s). They could also advise the turtle patrol to release it after the sun goes down.
Technically, people who are not on a FWC permit are not supposed to touch a hatchling, so it’s best to call the FWC first to see what they say.
If you are in a position where you have no way to communicate with the FWC (lack of phone, etc.), the procedure is to put hatchlings in a bucket with some damp sand (not water), cover the bucket with a damp towel, and put it in a place out of direct sun and where predators cannot get to it. As soon as possible, call the FWC.
Sea turtles are either endangered or threatened. (The loggerhead is the only species that has a population high enough to be categorized as only threatened in Florida.) They are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act (379.2431, Florida Statutes).
Florida Statutes (F.A.C. Rule 68E-1) restrict the taking, possession, disturbance, mutilation, destruction, selling, transference, molestation and/or harassment of marine turtles, nests or eggs. Protection is also afforded to marine turtle habitat. A specific authorization from Commission staff is required to conduct scientific, conservation, or educational activities that directly involve marine turtles in or collected from Florida, their nests, hatchlings or parts thereof, regardless of the applicant’s possession of any federal permit.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the FWC dually review permits for coastal construction under Chapter 62B, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.). that affects marine turtles.
There are still fines in place and possible time in prison for not adhering to sea turtle laws.