Mote coordinates with county, state and federal efforts to conserve sea turtles — particularly loggerheads, since Sarasota County hosts the highest density of loggerhead nests in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mote's Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program includes staff, interns and volunteers who have documented sea turtle nesting activitiy and the status of shoreline habitat for more than three decades along 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches. Their findings contribute to the statewide understanding of nesting trends. Data show that nesting by loggerhead turtles declined and then rebounded in recent years, while green turtle nesting — although very low in numbers — has increased. Nest destruction by predators has also increased during the same time period.

For past years' nesting numbers, visit Sea Turtle Nesting on our Environmental Updates page.

Turtle-friendly tips

On the beach

Sea turtle nesting season takes place from May 1-Oct. 31 on Southwest Florida beaches. On nesting beaches, light from waterfront properties can disorient nesting female turtles and their young, which emerge at night and use dim natural light to find the sea. Also, beach furniture, trash and other obstacles can impede sea turtles and their young.

Here are some “do and don’t” tips to keep our beaches turtle-friendly:

  • DO stay away from sea turtle nests marked with yellow stakes and tape, and seabird nesting zones that are bounded by ropes.
  • DO remain quiet and observe from a distance if you encounter a nesting sea turtle or hatchlings.
  • DO shield or turn off outdoor lights that are visible on the beach from May through October.
  • DO close drapes after dark and stack beach furniture at the dune line or, ideally, remove it from the beach
  • DO fill in holes that may entrap hatchlings on their way to the water.
  • DON’T approach nesting turtles or hatchlings, make noise, or shine lights at turtles.
  • DON’T use flashlights, head lamps or fishing lamps on the beach.
  • DON’T encourage a turtle to move while nesting or pick up hatchlings that have emerged and are heading for the water.
  • DON’T use fireworks on the beach.
  • DON’T walk dogs on any Sarasota County beach other than Brohard Paw Park in Venice. There, dogs must be leashed or under voice control, according to county ordinances.

On the water

  • Follow Coast Guard-approved safe boating guidelines and use vigilance to avoid striking sea turtles and other large marine life.
  • Be sure to stow trash and line when under way. Marine debris that accidentally blows overboard or out of a truck can become ingested by or entangled around marine life.
  • Wear polarized sunglasses to better see marine life in your path.

Report stranded sea turtles and marine mammals

Mote Marine Laboratory’s Stranding Investigations Program responds 24 hours a day seven days a week to reports of sick, injured and dead marine mammals and sea turtles for animals in Sarasota and Manatee county waters. Live animals are brought back to Mote’s Dolphin and Whale Hospital or Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital for treatment and the deceased animals undergo a detailed post-mortem examination so that we may learn more about the natural history of these animals and evaluate long-term trends in mortality.

Within Sarasota or Manatee county waters, if you see a stranded or dead dolphin, whale or sea turtle, please call Mote's Stranding Investigations Program, a 24-hour response service, at (941) 988-0212.

If you see a stranded or dead manatee anywhere in state waters or a stranded or dead dolphin, whale or sea turtle outside of Sarasota or Manatee counties, please call the FWC Wildlife Alert hotline at 1 (888) 404-FWCC (3922).

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