Florida Sea Turtle Information

Five species of sea turtles inhabit Florida's waters during some of the year. Florida's nesting sea turtles include the loggerhead (most common), #oe336bs, and leatherback (least common). During the summer months, there are approximately 50,000 sea turtles in Florida. This makes it the most important nesting area in the United States. Other species of sea turtles that frequent Florida waters but generally do not nest here include the Hawksbill and the Kemp's Ridley.


Turtle Nesting

In Florida, sea turtles come ashore to nest beginning in May and hatching continues until late October. A female can lay several nests during one season and only nests every two or three years. The hard process of nesting takes hours. A turtle must drag her massive weight out of the water to the dunes. She uses her back flippers to dig a hole and deposits about one hundred rubbery eggs, each the size of a ping-pong ball. The turtle disguises the nest by flinging sand over it. Once she leaves the nest, she never returns.


After incubating for two months, the hatchelings break out of their shells and thrash about together causing the walls of the nest to collapse and the bottom of the hole to rise. Once near the surface, the hatchelings wait until the sand temperature cools to emerge. Therefore most emerge after dark. Once out of the nest, the turtles scramble to the water and swim offshore where they will live for several years in seaweed beds drifting along the Gulf Stream. As the turtles grow older they move into coastal waters.

 

Threats to the Sea Turtles

Centuries ago, sea turtles roamed our oceans by the millions. In the last 100 years their numbers been greatly reduced. All seven species of sea turtles are in danger of extinction. Demand for sea turtle meat, eggs, and other by-products, as well as a loss of habitat, commercial fishing, and pollution have contributed to their decline.

The main danger for hatchelings is from artificial lighting. When the babies emerge, they instinctively move in the brightest direction. Normally, this would be the open night sky reflected by the ocean. On a developed beach, artificial lights attract the hatchelings, causing them to crawl in the wrong direction. Other dangers include obstructions on the beach, such as beach chairs, holes, or tire tracks, all of which can block their path to the sea.

 
 
                 You Can Help
If you are visiting, or live near the beach, you can help by keeping outside lights off during turtle season from May through October. Make sure to remove chairs, umbrellas and other gear from the beach each night. Level all sand castles and fill any holes dug during play. Please pick up all trash. Sea turtles mistakenly eat debris, especially plastic, which results in death. Never buy products made from sea turtles or any other endangered species

If You See A Turtle

If you encounter a nesting sea turtle on the beach stay clear. Do not shine lights or take flash photographs. When frightened the nesting turtle will return to the water where she will drop her eggs. If you see an injured, nesting or dead sea turtle, call the Florida Marine Patrol at 1-800-DIAL FMP

Sea Turtles Found in Florida

    Green Turtle

    Named for the #oe336bish color of its body fat, this turtle is listed as endangered in Florida. Most #oe336b turtles nest in the Caribbean, but up to 2000 nests can be found in Florida each year. For centuries, #oe336b turtles were hunted for their meat that was made into soup. Hunting and egg gathering greatly reduced their number. #oe336b turtles graze on the vast beds of sea grasses found throughout the tropics and are the only sea turtles that eat plants. Some travel over a thousand miles to nest on islands in the mid-Atlantic.

    Hawksbill Turtle

    This turtle is a relatively small turtle, and has been hunted to the brink of extinction for its beautiful shell. Once relatively common in Florida, these turtles now rarely nest here. They feed on sponges and other invertebrates and tend to nest on small, isolated beaches.

    Leatherback Turtle

    This endangered turtle is the largest and most active of the sea turtles. Up to eight feet in length, these huge turtles have a rubbery dark shell marked by seven narrow ridges that run the length of their back. Many travel thousands of miles and dive thousands of feet deep. They also venture into much colder water than any other sea turtle. These turtles feed on jellyfish and soft-bodied animals that would appear to provide very little nutrition for such huge animals. Ingestion of plastic bags and egg collecting are reasons for mortality and population declines. About 200 leatherback nests are recorded in Florida each year.

    Kemp's Ridley

    The rarest and smallest of all the sea turtles, this endangered turtle feeds in the coastal waters of Florida on blue crabs, other crabs and shrimp. They nest on a single stretch of beach on the Gulf Coast of Mexico.

    Loggerhead Turtle

    This is the most common sea turtle in Florida. It is classified as a threatened, but not endangered species. Named because of its large head, which can be ten inches wide, it has powerful jaws used to crush the clams, crabs and encrusting animals on which it feeds. As many as 68,000 loggerhead nests have been found in Florida each year.

  • Florida beaches are home to 80% of Loggerhead turtles in the U.S.
  • Turtles can migrate thousands of miles, but usually return to lay their eggs on the same beach where they hatched
  • Sea turtles have existed for over one hundred million years
  • It can take 15 - 50 years before a sea turtle is capable of reproducing
  • Scientists estimate that only 1 in 1000 to 10,000 babies will survive to adulthood
  • Sea turtles live their entire life in the ocean. The only time they comes ashore is when the female lays her eggs.
  • Sea turtles are reptiles. They breathe air, and can hold their breath for long periods of time.
  • When its time to sleep, a loggerhead will wedge under a rock close to the shore, or take a snooze while floating on the surface of deep water
  • Hatchelings weigh less than one ounce and are only two inches long. Adults can grow over 3 feet long and weigh 200 to 300 pounds!
  • The nest temperature during incubation determines a sea turtle's sex. Boys like it cool - Girls like it hot.
  • Sea turtles have great underwater vision, but are nearsighted out of the water.
  • Although sea turtles do not have external ears, they are capable of hearing low frequency sounds and vibrations
  • Sea turtles use their strong jaws to crush a diet of crabs, shrimp, mussels, and jelly fish.