In 2005 Indian River County implemented a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to help protect and enhance beaches as sea turtle nesting habitats. With this implementation began the IR Sea Turtle Program and daily county-wide sea turtle nest monitoring. Over 12 years, the county staff have been able to use long-term nesting trends to identify predator issues, beachfront lighting issues, and human impacts along the coast and work with the appropriate entities to improve these issues. In 2016, the county began the Turtle Friendly Business Program (TFB) to help reach the goals described in the HCP. Each of these beachfront businesses have volunteered to follow the City of Vero lighting ordinance to protect adults and hatchling sea turtles, promote local sea turtle activities, provide educational information to guests, and bring their own personality to sea turtle conservation. This program was successful in reducing the number of hatchling disorientations in the City of Vero Beach last year and has added three new businesses, now totaling 9 TFBs (Vero Beach Hotel and Spa, Holiday Inn Beachside, Ocean Grill, Costa D’ Este, Shark Bait, Bouche Brothers, Reef Ocean Resort, Riomar County Club, and Sea Turtle Realty),in the 2017 program.
During nesting season you can see hundreds of nests marked off with yellow signs, red stakes, and orange ribbon along the beach all representing a small sample (about 10%) of the total nests laid across the county. Three days after each of these marked nests hatch, the contents of the nests are dug up and evaluated. This allows scientists and decision makers to understand how well the beaches are incubating sea turtle nests and if these nests are experiencing any impacts that can be managed more efficiently. Starting in July, the public is invited to watch nests between Vero Beach Hotel and Costa d’Este be evaluated. This experience is called a Turtle Dig. Guests will received a small presentation about sea turtle biology, threats to their survival, and ways to help protect turtles while standing only a couple feet away from a nest evaluation conducted by the IR Sea Turtle Program staff and volunteers. If any straggler hatchlings are found during the excavation, guests will get to watch them be released into the ocean once the program is complete. These Turtle Dig experiences will take place:
Months: July and August
Date: 3 days after a nest hatches
Location: Sexton Plaza
To find out when a next Turtle Dig will occur please visit the IRC Coastal Division Facebook page @IRCCoastal or visit your nearest Turtle Friendly Business.