Sea turtle nesting season starts May 1

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- It's that time of the year again, when thousands of sea turtles begin their annual nesting along the Suncoast. Nesting season officially kicks off tomorrow and continues until October 31st.

For the next six months, all along the shores of the Suncoast, you will find taped-off squares where the endangered species will be nesting. Researchers say they're expecting even more turtles than last year.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch’s Suzi Fox makes it her mission to educate the community on how to protect sea turtles.

"We find the nests in the morning, when the survey walkers … go through, we mark them off with yellow turtle sticks,” Fox says.

Sea turtle nest

Turtle Watch is hoping for an even busier season than last year, when a record 370 nests were made along the nine miles of Anna Maria's shoreline.

"This year what's really different is that we have a re-nourished beach,” Fox says. “So I'm looking out at beach right now that is almost 10 times larger than it was last year."

Mote Marine also saw record numbers of turtles last year. As the organization enters its 33rd year protecting and learning more about these endangered species, they will cover over 35 miles of beach from Longboat Key to Venice.

"For the green sea turtles, the rarest species, 2013 did very much beat our local record," says Mote's Hayley Rutger.

To continue the success, researches say they need the community to do their part in protecting the nests.

"If I'm out walking the beach at night, what I'll do is I'll tell somebody to shut their lights off," says Anna Maria resident Michael Martin.

Experts offer these tips for residents to help ensure the sea turtles' and their hatchlings' safety:

  • No shield lights or flashlights should be visible from the beach at night.
  • No flash photography.
  • Pick up garbage along the beach.
  • Remove all umbrellas and beach chairs at night.

And for those visiting, they hope to catch a glimpse of the turtles.

"That'd be pretty neat to see,” says Suncoast tourist and Arkansas resident Nikki Blackbird. “It's something we've never seen before."

Researchers hope the community will once again help ensure a successful season of protecting the turtles.