Have you seen these markers on the beach? The markers represent a sea turtle nest and every year islanders wait for baby turtles to hatch.
A female turtle usually comes ashore at night to lay her eggs in the sand. In a 2-3 hour time span, she could lay up to 120 eggs, yet only one turtle per nest will survive to adulthood! Due to many factors, especially human exploration and habitat destruction, sea turtles are threatened with extinction. Because of this, all sea turtles are protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and Florida State Law (Florida Marine Protection Act). It is illegal to kill or harm sea turtles. It is also illegal to disturb the nest of a sea turtle. Heavy fines and possible imprisonment may result.
Sea turtle nesting season runs from May to October each year and turtles play a vital role in the island’s marine ecosystem (as well as any other marine ecosystem). There are actually five species of sea turtle that live on AMI, with the most common being the Loggerhead (pictured). Each sea turtle species uniquely affects the diversity, habitat and functionality of its environment. Whether by grazing on sea grass, feasting on jellyfish, controlling sponge distribution, transporting nutrients or supporting other marine life, sea turtles play a vital role in maintaining the health of the Gulf of Mexico and the AMI shoreline.
If you would like to see baby turtles trek into the Gulf, or if you would like to see baby turtles hatching, the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch & Shorebird Monitoring staff conducts nest tours during season. For more information, visit the AMITW & Shorebird Monitoring website.