By Erin Laytham Lentz

The sea turtle is one of earth’s most mysterious and time-honored creatures. Only one in 1,000 baby sea turtles makes it to adulthood, so when summer hatching season comes along the SC Department of Natural Resources does all it can to ensure their shot at survival. Deep grooves in the sand are a first sign a sea turtle has chosen a spot in the sand to lay her eggs. Nesting season can last for several months and sometimes volunteers will move nests to safer spots nestled in the dunes. When the turtles hatch, there is merely 48 hours for them to journey down the beach into the water and about 40 miles out into the sea to their food source. With the light of the moon guiding them the tiny creatures find their way but distractions such as artificial light can disorient them and send them the wrong direction. People can help the turtles chances of survival by keeping lights off at night, and on the beach filling in holes and picking up any trash. Sea turtles lay around 100 eggs per nest, and between 3-7 nests per summer nesting season.

Advice from a Sea Turtle:

Swim with the current

Be a good neighbor

Stay calm under pressure

Be well traveled

Think long term

Age gracefully

Spend time at the beach

The hatchlings have limited amounts of energy to stand a fighting chance at survival. An adult sea turtle will grow to be about 300 pounds and can live as long as 100 years.  Sea turtles are a part of two ecosystems; the beach dune system and the marine system. If sea turtles were extinct it would negatively affect both of these ecosystems. They have existed over 100 million years and they travel throughout the world’s oceans. Why are they struggling to survive? Largely in part to what people are doing to the planet’s oceans and beaches. If we can learn from our mistakes and change it is possible to save the sea turtles from extinction. Maintaining the health of sea grass beds is crucial to their well-being because they are one of the few animals that eat sea grass. The sea grass also provides breeding and development grounds for many species of fish and shellfish.

The Coastal Discovery Museum offers a summer program from June-August called, Sea Turtle Talks which includes a lecture and beach walk that educates participants about sea turtles, loggerhead nesting on the island, The Sea Turtle Protection Project and ways individuals can help. Weather-permitting the presentation ends with a protected nest viewing. For information coastaldiscovery.org

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