HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — It’s been a good year for loggerhead sea turtles with record numbers of nests being reported in some places along the South Carolina and Florida coasts midway through the nesting season.
Preliminary figures from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources show about 4,900 nests have been reported in South Carolina.
There have been 344 nests already recorded on Hilton Head Island, breaking the record of 339 set during the entire 2013 season. Record numbers have also been recorded on Fripp Island and Harbor Island.
“And we’re not even done yet,” Amber Keuhn, manager of the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project, told The Island Packet.
In Florida, a record 2,600 nests have been reported in the area from Longboat Key to Venice, according to Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist with the Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at Mote Marine Laboratory.
Eggs are starting to hatch in both areas and it’s a crucial time for the turtles.
As the hatchlings emerge from eggs, they make their way down the beach to the ocean. People who live along the beach or are vacationing there are being asked to turn off lights that may shine toward the beach at night.
The lights confuse the young hatchlings and they crawl toward land instead of toward the ocean. Last year, problems with lights caused the loss of turtles from 21 nests, more than double the number lost the previous year.
The Hilton Head Sea Turtle Protection Project this year has been placing newsletter notices and advertisements as well as putting notices on people’s doors to remind them to turn off their lights along the beach.
The group also spent about $3,000 on doormats displaying the light ordinance to remind visitors of the rules.
There have been 19 violations this year for light violations. But town attorney Brian Hulbert says those people were given educational brochures instead of tickets.
The ordinance requires people in buildings visible from the beach to turn off outside lights at 10 p.m. from the May 1 through Oct. 31.