There are five species of sea turtles that frequent the water around Florida, and three of them nest on Deerfield Beach. The common Deerfield Beach species are the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), the leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), and the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). Sea turtles a thought to live up to 80 years in the wild, and range from 30 inches long and 80-100 lbs. to eight feet long and up to 2,000 lbs. The leatherback sea turtle is the largest of all living turtles.
These creatures are most commonly found in warm and temperate waters around the world and have been known to travel hundreds and sometimes more than a thousand miles between their nesting beaches and feeding grounds. Some sea turtles consume meat like crabs, shrimp, and snails; while others prefer plants like algae and seaweed.
Sea turtle nesting seasons vary slightly depending on the species, but range from early March through the end of October. Nests are typically marked with orange tape and small wood posts in a triangular shape. It is important to understand how beachgoers impact sea turtles on the beach and work to minimize that.
Learn more about sea turtle nesting in Broward County.
Turtle Friendly Lighting
For millions of years, female sea turtles have been coming ashore to lay their eggs on beaches. In the past, the hatchling turtles were guided to the ocean by an instinct to travel away from the dark silhouettes of the dune vegetation and toward the brightest horizon which was the light from the sky reflecting off the ocean. In present times, however, many coastal areas are highly populated. There are many artificial lights near the beach that can deter females from nesting and disorient hatchling sea turtles. The hatchlings travel inland, toward the artificial lights, where they often die from dehydration, are preyed upon by fire ants and ghost crabs, or sometimes crawl onto the road where they are run over by cars.
To make the beach lighting more turtle-friendly, the City of Deerfield Beach made many changes to the lighting system. After receiving a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, new bollards were installed that had amber-colored LEDs, shielding on three sides, and are directed downwards.
The City of Deerfield Beach is very aware of the threat to the sea turtle population and the sea turtle’s inclusion on the endangered species list. For this reason, a close working relationship has been established with Broward County and Nova Southeastern University. A volunteer is dispatched each morning to locate any new nest. Once discovered, the nest is appropriately marked and signs are posted to make the general public aware that disturbing it will result in a substantial fine.
Responsible Pier Initiative
The Responsible Pier Initiative is a program designed as a tool to work directly with fishermen and fishing piers. The purpose of these efforts is to provide first-responders on fishing piers with the necessary resources to respond effectively to sea turtle injuries and strandings on or around fishing piers.
The City of Deerfield Beach participates in the Responsible Pier Initiative by stationing a Turtle Retriever Net in the bait house at the Pier. This net is meant to assist fishermen who have hooked a turtle. Turtles can be safely moved to shore so that they can be handled by the appropriate authorities.