Sea turtle nesting season off to good start in S.C.; volunteers adjust to new COVID-19 rules

Updated: May. 29, 2020 at 6:22 PM EDT
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MURRELLS INLET, S.C. (WMBF) - Sea turtle nesting season officially began May 1, and so far there have been 732 nests reported, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The 2019 sea turtle nesting season shattered a record with 8,802 nests. For comparison, 2018 saw just 2,767 nests statewide.

Huntington Beach State Park ranger and marine biologist Mike Walker said this year is off to a good start. Walker said Huntington Beach had it’s fourth sea turtle nest Friday morning.

Nesting season is May through August. He said he’s not counting on another record-breaking year because the sea turtles nesting each year changes.

“That whole group of sea turtles that were nesting last summer, they’re not nesting this year at all. They take two to three years off between nesting seasons. And the reason for that, we believe, is being a turtle, having that hard, thick shell, you can fit eggs in there or you can fit food. But, you can’t fit both. So we believe they’re actually starving themselves during the nesting season," Walker explained.

Huntington Beach State Park uses special cages to protect the sea turtle nests, specifically from foxes and canines. The wire cages are easy to spot on the beach, accompanied by an orange sign.

While sea turtle nesting season is underway, volunteers are limited to their days to find the nests.

Walker said due to COVID-19, new regulations are in place.

“Unfortunately, just with safety and health concerns, also new regulations from the Department of Natural Resources, we can only utilize one or maybe two volunteers on the section of beach, two if they’re family members or sheltering together," Walker said.

He added that groups of friends volunteer to find the nests and walk the three miles of Huntington Beach in sections to find crawls and nests. This year, volunteers are only able to help a few times a month due to the new restrictions. Huntington Beach is split into three sections for each of its three miles for volunteers.

Despite the changes to this nesting season, Walker reminds you to help out the sea turtles by keeping lights off by the beaches when it’s dark, clean up when you leave the beach, fill in holes and knock over your sandcastles when you’re done.

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