By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – World Sea Turtle Day is Sunday, June 16th around the world, the date was picked in honor of Dr. Archie Carr, the founder of Sea Turtle Conservatory and “father of sea turtle biology”. The City of Miami Beach is hosting an event one day early on Saturday, June 15th at 5PM.
The city will be unveiling a sand sculpture Saturday (not conflicting with Father’s Day) dedicated to the protection of sea turtles that will remain onsite throughout the remainder of the weekend as a photo opportunity for beachgoers. The event will be at the Lummus Park Playground at 12th Street and Ocean Drive.
The city also announced a beach clean-up conducted by VolunteerCleanup.org will follow the unveiling, in an effort to fight back against the plastic pollution threatening marine life. It is estimated that 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the oceans annually.
Sea turtles are protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973 and Florida Statute Chapter 370. It is illegal to harm or harass sea turtles, their nests or hatchlings, and important not to disturb hatchlings, eggs or nests – since hatchlings need to crawl to the sea unimpeded.
The City of Miami Beach is a nesting habitat for three species of protected sea turtles; the Loggerhead, Green, and Leatherback. Annually, beginning in April and extending through early November, the native sea turtles come to lay around 100 eggs in a nest, and lay between 3 and 7 nests during the summer nesting season.
Another way to observe the day is to learn more about sea turtles through the Miami-Dade Sea Turtle Conservation Program (STCP) Nighttime Hatchling Release Program. This experience allows the public to learn more about sea turtles and to observe them being released by STCP staff on the beach at night.
Tickets are a $10 donation, which is used to benefit the sea turtle programs and conservation efforts, and the hatchling release program typically start July 1st. The administrators say tickets can be bought by typing “sea turtle” in the search bar of their online registration system.
Touching nesting females, taking flash pictures of nesting females or hatchlings, or digging into nests is prohibited by law. If anyone observes someone harassing a nesting or hatchling sea turtle, contact Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) Law Enforcement at (888) 404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC on cellular phones.
Some additional tips in regard to helping sea turtles thrive is to never approach turtles emerging from the sea or disturb or harass nesting turtles. Also stay clear of marked sea turtles nests on the beach.
For those staying near the beach, close curtains or blinds at night to prevent interior lights from shining, and cover, shield, or dim bright lights that face the water.