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Beware of the nesting sea turtles

Posted on Friday, June 20, 2014 at 1:13 pm

J. Daniel Pearson
Under the Bobber
A few years back we were trolling for dolphin off of Cape Canaveral when we had a strike.  Line ripped off the reel and we assumed we were hooked up with a monster.  Holding the rod, I knew two things.  First whatever was on the line was really big. Second, whatever was on the other end was fighting like no fish I had ever hooked before.
After 40 fruitless minutes of battling in 90 degree heat, I was exhausted and handed the rod over to my pal John Garrison, who spent the next hour battling the beast without gaining any headway.  We both felt that we had not hooked a normal fish and the best guess we could come up with was perhaps a giant ray.
A little after the two-hour mark, we finally got our catch to the surface and were totally shocked to see a giant Loggerhead turtle still struggling with our plug firmly embedded into his front right flipper.  We got him as close to the boat as possible but were unable to dislodge the hooks from his flipper.  We were able to cut the line close to the lure and watched as he descended into the depths where he came from.
Although we had no way of measuring, we estimated the turtle to be more than three and half feet across at the shell and probably weighed more than 200 pounds.
I bring that story up to remind everyone that it is turtle nesting season along our beaches and everyone should take care in protecting these magnificent animals.
Nesting season on Florida’s beaches runs from May until early October.  Florida’s shallow bays and estuaries provide important habitats for threatened and endangered sea turtles. The Sunshine State accounts for 90 percent of sea turtle nests in the continental United States and five of the world’s seven beach-nesting species of sea turtles, including the Loggerhead, green turtle, leatherback, hawksbill and the rarest and most endangered sea turtle, the Kemp’s Ridley.
The Loggerhead is the most common nesting turtle found in Florida.  A full-grown Loggerhead can be more than 100 inches in length and weigh more than 1,000 pounds.  It is estimated that up to 15,000 of these turtles will climb on to the beaches from Brevard County down to Palm Beach County to lay their eggs this year.  Although that may sound like a huge number, the Loggerhead is very much an endangered species.
These turtles will travel from as far away as the African coastline to lay their eggs on Florida’s beaches.  Each turtle will dig a nest and lay between 85 to 120 ping ball-sized eggs in one sitting and will repeat this 4 to 8 times during the nesting season.
As both eggs and hatchlings, these turtles face many perils from predators looking for an easy meal.  But we all can do something to help in the survival of these animals.
If you discover a nest, report it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-800-404-FWCC.  Volunteers will come and mark the nest to make beachgoers aware of its presence.  You should also call that number if you see a sea turtle injured or stranded.
Respect zones around nests and on the dunes. Remember to keep back to avoid accidentally stepping on the eggs. Do not disturb females while they nest. Keep the beach clear. Do not litter or leave behind beach equipment fishing line, plastic beer can rings or anything that can entrap turtles or hatchlings. Demolish sandcastles and fill in holes. Consider cleaning up litter spotted around you.
By following these simple steps, you can help ensure the survival of these animals for future generations to observe.
As always, tight lines and good luck!
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