Biologists have found record numbers of sea turtles during this year’s nesting season, which is excellent news because it proves that their work has finally paid off.
Many sea turtles subspecies are listed under the Endangered Species Act, but countless of them are still dying every year because of a wide variety of factors such as pollution, climate change, excessive fishing, and human ignorance.
Beaufort County officials are happy to announce that sea turtles have invaded their beaches to lay their eggs for the next generation. According to Amber Keuhn, Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project manager, even if these statistics are great, their work is far from being over because baby sea turtles might hatch any day now and they need to be protected.
There is a construction site eight miles of Hilton Head beaches where millions of cubic yards of sand are used to extend the beaches so that they will represent the ideal nesting environment for the sea turtles starting from next year.
Experts had to move over 300 nests to only two areas between the Folly and the Westin and Near South Forest Beach. Biologists are not worried about hatchlings emerging in a crowded area. Instead, they are concerned that people living near the beach might leave their lights on after 10 p.m., this way breaking the regulations.
Keuhn stressed that if someone forgets a porch light on, around 20 nests could be attracted to it and head into the wrong direction. When baby sea turtles hatch, they head for the first source of light they see, and that is usually the ocean water which strongly reflects the light from the sun.
Light makes these hatchlings head straight towards the ocean. But if they hatch during night time, and there are some lights on around the beach, these baby sea turtles will become confused. By heading in the wrong direction they can be hit by cars, eaten by many predators, or just die of exhaustion.
Hunting Islands is the only place which has not surpassed its 1984 record counting 157 nests compared to 127 this year. Ann Harbor Island counted 89 nests, more than 68 nests found in 2011.
Fripp Island has beaten the 2013 record of 92 nests by counting 98 nests this year, whereas Hilton Head has the most prolific nesting season with 344 nests compared to the 2013 record of 339.
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