Memorial Day weekend not kind to island sea turtles

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 12.06.55 PMBY MARCY SHORTUSE – Island sea turtle patrollers were full of excitement on Thursday, May 28 when they realized they had their first confirmed green turtle nest on Gasparilla Island.

“We’ve got a green!” was the post on Facebook by the Boca Grande Sea Turtle Association. They noted the green turtle’s “enthusiastic nesting style,” and said, “It looked like a bomb went off.”

Last season Gasparilla Island had nine green turtle nests.

Green turtle tracks

Green turtle tracks

Bad news came as well, in the form of a third stranding for the season, found washed up on the beach on Wednesday, May 20 between 45th and 48th Streets. Patrollers said that deep cuts on the turtle’s carapace led them to believe it could have died from boat prop injuries.

“Female turtles are just offshore waiting to come in and lay their nests,” said Maureen McConnell, permit holder for the island’s sea turtle group. “Boaters must be extra cautious.”

Several sea turtle nests were run over and the nest markers vandalized over the Memorial Day weekend as well. Shown below are pictures patrollers took on island beaches. The damage was reported to the authorities and appeared to be intentional. There were also large piles of beach furniture and toys left around the beach, which can entangle adult or newly-hatched turtles and kill them. 10479231_923664831030777_3077077931038655185_n

According to myfwc.com:

Sea turtles are either endangered or threatened (the loggerhead is the only species that has a population high enough to be 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). IMG_0309

Florida Statutes (F.A.C. Rule 68E-1) restrict the take, possession, disturbance, mutilation, destruction, selling, transference, molestation, and 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 applicant’s possession of any federal permit.

If anyone has any information about sea turtle nest tampering or destruction, contact the Carol Lis at (239) 533-8353 or the phone number on the sea turtle nest signs.