By NewsLine Staff
The beaches of St. Johns County are home to several species of endangered or threatened sea turtles. Sea turtle nesting season begins May 1 and St. Johns County officials are asking residents, visitors and businesses to help protect natural habitat by observing all nesting season laws and regulations.
Between May 1 and October 31, vehicular traffic on the beach is allowed between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. In addition, all beachfront properties are required to reduce their impact by eliminating interior and exterior lights which may disrupt nesting sea turtles.
These measures are enacted to ensure compliance with the St. Johns County Habitat Conservation Plan and Incidental Take Permit. Beach visitors can also have a positive impact on nesting sea turtles by taking the following actions while enjoying the beach:
- Refrain from using fireworks and open fires.
- Remove ruts and fill in holes left by vehicles and sand castle building.
- Please remove all chairs, umbrellas or canopies from the beach before dark. These items are subject to removal by county staff.
- When using a flashlight on the beach, please use a flashlight filter. These free filters can be found at the Vilano walkover, the St. Johns County Pier and at street ends in St. Augustine Beach.
- Avoid entering sand dunes and conservation zones (15 feet seaward of the dune line).
- Refrain from using balloons, as they can fall into the ocean and harm marine life.
- Never approach sea turtles emerging from or returning to the sea. Nesting sea turtles are vulnerable, timid and can be easily frightened away.
- Never push an injured animal back into the ocean. If an injured, sick or deceased sea turtle is encountered, call the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency dispatch line at (904) 824-8304.
Leave only your footprints, providing the turtles with a safe and clean habitat in which to nest and hatch.
Contact St. Johns County Habitat Conservation and Beach Management at (904) 209-3740 or visit www.sjcfl.us/hcp for more information.