In Florida, sea turtles begin to come ashore to lay their eggs in early May. Hatching continues until late October. Sea turtles are often seen in the surrounding waters near Boca Grande and the Boca Grande Pass is often filled with sea turtles that surface for air on their travels.
The main danger for hatchlings is artificial lighting. When babies are born they move in the brightest direction. Normally that would be toward the night-lit sky reflected on the water. On developed beaches, artificial lighting can cause hatchlings to crawl in the wrong direction. Obstructions on the beach such a beach chairs, tents, kayaks, holes in the sand and tire tracks all can block their path to the water.
Florida’s beaches are home to over 80 percent of loggerhead turtles in the United States. Volunteers in groups such as the Coastal Wildlife Club help protect sea turtles on Gasparilla Island and Manasota beaches. These organizations also educate the public about marine turtle needs to help maintain the population and to prevent a potentially irreversible decline.
Last year 35,515 nests were counted in Florida producing 4 million hatchlings, according to scientists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The beaches on Boca Grande and Englewood are important turtle nesting sites with Englewood the primary hatchling center in the entire nation.
2010 did show a slight increase in sea turtle populations, which had been on a steady decline since 1990.
You can make a difference in helping protect sea turtles by always picking up your fishing line, which can entangle and strangle turtles. Other cautions:
• Use less plastic. The water is filled with plastic garbage, which is a danger to all marine life.
• Do not disturb sea turtle nests. It is against the law.
• Prevent all lights from being visible from the beach.
• Prevent pets from disturbing nests.
• Be alert when operating boats for sea turtles, manatees and othr3 marine life.
• Avoid digging holes in the beach.
• Always pick up any plastic garbage you find on the beaches.
Florida is also home to many rare and precious shorebirds. Snowy plovers, Wilson’s plovers, least terns, American oystercatchers and black skimmers all nest along our beautiful beaches.
Shorebird nesting season runs from mid-March throughout the summer. Some are looking for a mate, others are here for the fresh seafood and others just want to spend a nice warm summer on the beach. Posted nesting areas protect the nesting birds. People are kept at a distance from these areas so they do not step on eggs.
Boca Grande is a terrific destination to see many shorebirds that come to the beautiful beaches year after year to nest.
Tarpon are in full swing in June and Boca Grande is the Tarpon Capital of The World. Anglers looking to reel in the almighty silver king come back year after year hoping to hook into these jumbo-size sardines.
Tarpon are not the only fish in town. Snook, trout, redfish, cobia, permit, sharks, snapper, grouper pompano, kingfish, mackerel and ladyfish are available to target, too.
Rare American oystercatchers nest along Gasparilla Island beaches.
Fact BoxMerry Beth Ryan, a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, can be reached at www.merrybethryanphotography.com, by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone (941) 544-5023.