Sea turtle nesting season runs from May 1st until October 31st every year in Nassau County of northeast Florida. During this time, sea turtles are actively nesting and relying heavily on coastal habitats. They forage in and around the dunes and may be seen re-entering or emerging from the ocean. Check the list below to see which species of native sea turtles are inhabiting the beaches of Fernandina/Amelia Island and other coasts in Nassau County:
Northeast FL Native Sea Turtles
1. Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) NOAA Fisheries Profile – Green Turtle
2. Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) NOAA Fisheries Profile – Loggerhead Turtle
3. Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) NOAA Fisheries Profile – Leatherback Turtle
Each of these endangered marine reptiles leave distinct tracks in the sand at night as they drag their shells along the beach to find a dry place in the sand to dig a hole and lay eggs. You can find out how to distinguish the different tracks by visiting the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch website here, but what should you do upon encountering a live sea turtle? What if you happen to stumble upon an unmarked nest? Are there special instructions for owning beachside property? To prevent any disruption to the coastal ecosystem, be sure to read the latest recommendations and stay up to date on sea turtle information.
Rules, Recommendations, and Information:
- touch sea turtles, especially when they are laying eggs
- touch sea turtle nests (usually nests are marked or taped-off)
- feed or attempt to feed sea turtles
- speak loudly or yell
- report sea turtle sightings to Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch (AISTW) email@example.com
- stay back 50 feet from nests and 50 yards from sea turtles
- look for tracks and try to identify which ones you’re seeing (pictures here)
- allow sea turtles to travel up the beach without blocking their path as they emerge from the ocean
- be extra careful not to step on any baby sea turtles
- stay out of all sea turtles’ path on their way back to the ocean
- fill in any holes from beach activities/beach furniture when finished
- remove all beach items from sand each night
Recommendations for Beachside Property Owners:
- Replace white porch lights with 25-watt yellow bug light or amber/red LED bulbs and try to use outdoor lights only when necessary.
- Keep porch lights on timers to detect motion but not stay on all night.
- Remove beach items and furniture each night to keep the sand clear.
- Double check all Nassau County Rules and Codes on Sea Turtle Nesting (resources below)
Sea Turtle Nesting Tips, Rules, and Codes:
- Nassau County Insider article – “Sea Turtle Nesting Season”
- Nassau County Chamber of Commerce Blog – “Start of Turtle Nesting Season”
- Nassau County Parks and Recreation – “Sea Turtle Protecion”
- City of Fernandina Outdoor Lighting Code
- Nassau County Board of Commissioners Ordinance on Sea Turtles (Sec. 10-6)
- Nassau County Board of Commissioners Ordinance on Beachfront Lighting fro the PRotection of Sea Turtles (Sec. 37-07)
Looking for more information on sea turtles? Try these links:
Sea Turtle Information:
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- Sea Turtle Conservancy
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Sea Turtle Vulnerability and Protection:
Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert
Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.