When the sun goes down, the beach belongs to the Loggerheads.
Through September, the 78 nests on Edisto Beach will give way to Loggerhead hatchlings. Of the hatchlings that make their way into the water, it is estimated that only 1 in 1000 will live to adulthood.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Loggerheads are a threatened species and federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. Hatchlings rely on the light of the moon to guide them into the ocean; which is why any artificial light shone onto the beach from flashlights or house lights is prohibited from May to September. Red-light based flashlights can be used on the beach, but the less artificial light used the better, according to Meg Hoyle, director of Learning through Loggerheads.
While 78 nests may seem like a lot for Edisto, nearby Botany Bay – an unpopulated beach similar in size to Edisto Beach – boasts 150 nests. The reason for this change is due to one thing: light pollution.
Hoyle said vacationers and other beach enthusiasts want to help the turtles, but some are unaware that their actions can cause a female Loggerhead to release her eggs into the water without building a nest because of the light pollution on front beach from homes and flashlights.
“It takes door-to-door action to educate people about the sea turtles,” Hoyle said.
Nearby beaches like Kiawah and Hilton Head Island have more than 100 nests a piece because of their efforts to stop light pollution, according to Hoyle.
“People want things easy,” Hoyle said. “If you give them a list of what they need to do to help the turtles, nine times out of ten they’ll do it. If we don’t pass along information and knowledge we put the turtles at risk.”
In addition to people wanting things easy, turtles want things easy as well. The average female Loggerhead weighs approximately 300 lbs and it is a massive undertaking for them to drag their bodies up onto the beach to deposit their eggs far enough away from the high tide water line. They use their hind limbs to smooth and push away the sand to create an opening large enough to hold their eggs (usually around 110 eggs) and then they cover the eggs and make their way back into the water. The entire process lasts up to two hours.
It is also especially important to ensure beaches are turtle-friendly because sea turtles lay their eggs on or near the beaches where they hatched; and if they stop laying eggs on Edisto then future generations of beachgoers will never get to experience what it’s like to be on a beach that is home to Loggerheads.
HOW TO HELP
- No lights are allowed on the beach after sundown during the months of May – September
- Do not leave anything on the beach at night such as chairs, coolers, or awnings
- Do not touch or disturb a turtle nest
- Do not pick up or touch any baby sea turtles – they do not need your help to reach the ocean
- Flash photography of sea turtles or hatchlings is prohibited
- Fill in the sand around any holes dug for sand castles and knock over sand castles at the end of the day – these provide unnecessary obstacles for sea turtles to crawl around
- Contact the Edisto Island Interpretive Center at 843 869 4430 to schedule a turtle walk or report a nest
HOW TO VIEW TURTLES SAFELY
- Contact ltlonline.org to schedule a turtle walk for the 2011 summer season
- Contact the Edisto Beach State Park to schedule a turtle walk for the 2011 summer season at (843) 869-2756
- Remember to keep your lights off and if you happen to see a turtle while on a night walk on your own, do not bother it