MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – "Do not interfere with sea turtles!" That's the message from the Myrtle Beach City government has for beach-goers this summer.
Sea turtle nesting season begins May 1, and sea turtles are protected by federal law. Feeding or touching turtles in any way, including shining a light on them, is considered a disturbance and is illegal, according to a Facebook post from the city. Beach-goers should not harass, pick up, ride, straddle, restrain, jump over, injure, kill or otherwise disturb sea turtles.
Turtle hatchlings should not be picked up and placed in the ocean, as they need to crawl on their own to increase their chances of survival, the city states.
The turtles are protected by both the Federal Engendered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Turtle Protection Act, which states: "no person may take, possess, disturb, mutilate, destroy, cause to be destroyed, sell, offer for sale, transfer, molest or harass any marine sea turtle or its nests or eggs at any times."
Federal penalties include jail time and fines up to $15,000 for each offense.
The Myrtle Beach Police Department has had several reports of people shining lights on turtles trying to come ashore at night to rest on the sand, city officials stated. Other reports said people on the beach have scared away nesting sea turtles.