The extent of the development on the beaches of Broward County and associated bright lights from condos, streets, and highway traffic has caused many problems for sea turtles, hatchlings in particular. Most of the nests in Broward County were relocated by permitted personnel to a safer beach area or hatchery where hatchlings could exit the nest and transverse the beach to the water on their own. Nests that were not moved were those that are already on safe beaches, although those were few and far between. As of 2006, this procedure was modified. With the active enforcement of local lighting ordinances now being aggressively pursued, safer beach areas were created and have eliminated the relocation of most nests.
Incubation of Loggerhead and Green nests take about 45-55 days. Leatherback eggs take a bit longer, reaching upwards of 70-80 days, sometimes longer. After this period, the hatchlings emerge from the nest en masse and, using various environmental and instinctual cues, quickly migrate to the water's edge. If artificial lights are lighting the beach, the hatchlings can be disoriented, travel in the wrong direction, and possibly never make it to the water.
Once in the water, the hatchlings swim directly out to sea, facing a perilous struggle to survive to adulthood. The best scientific estimates available indicate that only one in 1,000 to 10,000 hatchlings will survive (anywhere from 20-50 years) to become an adult sea turtle.
The maximum age of adult turtles is unknown, but some have been kept in captivity longer than 50 years.
Our program, in conjunction with Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park in Hollywood, has public hatchling releases from July through August. You should call them directly for reservations, which are required. Please call the Sea Turtle Emergency cellphone (954-328-0580) if you find hatchlings in Broward County headed away from the sea or on the road.
NSU Oceanographic Center supplies the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program with contract employees.
The Mission of the Oceanographic Center is to carry out innovative, basic and applied research and to provide high-quality graduate and undergraduate education in a broad range of marine science and related disciplines.