FLORIDA — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reminding beachgoers that sea turtles are starting to nest on Florida beaches and ask that visitors follow safety tips to help protect vulnerable nesting turtles.

Various species of sea turtles will nest along Florida’s shores from March through October.

FWC offers some easy steps to protect them, including giving them space, minimizing disturbances and keeping beaches clean and dark.

Clear the way at the end of the day: According to wildlife officials, female sea turtles expend large amounts of energy crawling out of the surf and far enough up the sand to dig and lay nests in spots that are less vulnerable to the tides. Trash, objects left on the beach and holes can be a hinderance to nesting turtles and their hatchlings. FWC asks beachgoers to properly stash or recycle all trash, fill in human-made holes in the sand, and remove all beach toys, gear and furniture from the sand before sunset. Fishing line can also be deadly to sea turtles and other wildlife, along with food scraps that attract predators such as raccoons and crows.

Lights out: Any lighting can misdirect and disturb nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings, leading them away from the ocean and toward potential danger. To prevent this, beachgoers should use natural starlight to see when on the beach at night and avoid using flashlights or cellphones. Anyone living along or visiting Florida beaches can do their part by putting porch, parking or deck lights out and closing curtains after dark to avoid disorienting nesting and hatchling sea turtles on the beach. If lighting could still be visible from the beach, be sure it is long, low and shielded

Admire from afar: Getting too close (50 feet or less) to nesting sea turtles can cause them to leave the beach before they complete the nesting process. If an animal changes their behavior, you’re likely too close. It is illegal to harm or disturb nesting sea turtles, their nests and eggs, or to pick up hatchlings.  

If you spot a sick or injured sea turtle, you are asked to call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

Sea turtles typically return to nest in March along Florida’s southeast Atlantic coast from Brevard County south to Broward County, while nesting begins on Gulf Coast or north Florida beaches in April or May.

For more information about nesting sea turtles, visit MyFWC.com/SeaTurtle.