Frequently Asked Questions About Sea Turtles
When do hatchlings
emerge from nests? | Direction of the ocean
when they emerge from their nests | How
do artificial light sources effect hatchlings? | How
can my lights contribute to the problem? | Misdirected
hatchlings found on the beach? | Notify
about visible light? | For more information
| The Florida Marine Research Institute
When do hatchlings emerge from nests?
Hatchlings emerge from nests throughout the months of
- September and
The date of nest emergence depends on the date the eggs were laid
and the incubation period of the nest (typically 50-65 days).
It is a myth that hatchlings emerge only around the time of the
full moon. Hatchlings ready to emerge wait just beneath the sand
surface until conditions become cool. This temperature cue prompts
hatchlings to emerge primarily at night, although some late-afternoon
and early-morning emergence is known.
Direction of the ocean when they emerge
from their nests
Hatchlings possess an inborn tendency to move in the brightest
direction. On a natural beach, this brightest direction is most
often the open view of the night sky over, and reflected by, the
ocean. Hatchlings also tend to move away from darkly silhouetted
objects associated with the dune profile and vegetation. Hatchlings
emerge and locate the sea at all phases and positions of the moon;
it is a myth that hatchlings depend on the moon to lead them seaward.
How do artificial light sources effect
Hatchlings that crawl toward artificial light sources follow the
same instinctive response that leads them seaward on naturally lighted
beaches. It is the glaring light of artificial sources that leads
hatchlings astray. At night, artificial light sources appear bright
and glaring because they are close by, producing light that appears
intense but is not bright enough to illuminate the ocean. As a result,
light from an artificial source appears many times brighter than
light from any other direction, including the ocean. Natural light
sources like the sun and moon are extremely bright, but are also
quite distant. Their light brightens the sky, ocean and dune, allowing
hatchlings to correctly assess the visual cues that lead them to
How can my lights contribute
to the problem?
Any reduction in the amount of artificial light reaching the nesting
beach helps sea turtles. As lighting is reduced, hatchlings emerging
on moonlit nights and at locations far from the lighted property
will have a better chance at entering the sea.
Misdirected hatchlings found on the beach?
What to do
Hatchling sea turtles found wandering away from the ocean should
be taken to a darkened portion of beach and allowed to walk into
the surf on their own. Hatchlings that do not crawl vigorously can
be placed in the ocean and allowed to swim away.
Who to call
In all cases, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
(east coast office, 561-575-5455; west coast office, 727-896-8626),
or the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Division
of Marine Enforcement (1-800-404-FWCC) should be notified during
regular business hours.
Notify about visible light?
Many coastal communities in Florida have ordinances that restrict
or prohibit beachfront lighting during the nesting season. Check
with your county or city to see if they have adopted a sea turtle
lighting ordinance. Lighting problems should then be reported to
the local code enforcement board or police.
For more information
For more information about sea turtles, you may contact:
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
Division of Marine Resources
Florida Marine Research Institute
100 Eighth Avenue, S.E.
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701
The Florida Marine Research Institute
The Florida Marine Research Institute of the Florida Fish &
Wildlife Conservation Commission conducts research necessary for
marine resource management decisions. The Institute has responsibilities
for marine fisheries, marine habitat research, endangered and threatened
species recovery programs and a marine fish stock enhancement research