Whew! The first crush of beach visitors came to the Isle of Palms/Sullivan’s Island over this holiday weekend. Getting on and off the islands was like a parking lot! The number of tourists coming to beach is increasing. This was just the first wave from now through the summer season.
The holiday weekend of tourists had me thinking about another group of beach visitors—our sea turtles. Nesting season is underway. There have been at least five nests since the first one was spotted on May 22. When the hatching begins in July, it’s just the beginning of the amazing cycle of life for this endangered species.
Keeping in mind how many more people are on the beach, we need your help! Here’s how you can help make the beach safe (and more fun) for turtles and tourists both!
1. Only leave your footprints on the beach. Whatever you take to the beach—chairs, plastic wrappers, tents, etc.--make sure it leaves with you. Sea turtles like to eat jellyfish and can confuse plastic bags for food. A lethal mistake.
2. Fill in holes in the sand. If you dig a large hole, please smooth it out before you leave. Why bother? These pits can be a hazard to a mother turtle or hatchlings AND to someone walking the beach. Ouch!
3. Lights out for turtles! Why do we say this? Sea turtles find their way to the ocean by heading toward the brightest light. In nature, it is the moon over the water. But it can’t compete with man-made lights. If you’re taking an evening stroll along the beach, don’t use flashlights. Turn off the porch lights at the beach house or hotel balcony, and pull the window shades facing the beach down as well. Dark skies are beautiful!
4. Keep off the dunes! These natural barriers are fragile and the plant life helps keep the sand dunes in place. And turtles nest high in the dunes. Please stick to the beach trails and boardwalks—dogs, too!
These are easy tips for all of us, adults and kids, to be good sea turtle stewards. If you want to learn more about the sea turtle season, pick up a copy of TURTLE SUMMER. It’s a fun and informative children’s book with photographs for the little ones and all of us big kids too!