With the "official" start of sea turtle nesting season just around the corner, the City of Sanibel, in partnership with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF), is asking all residents and visitors to do their part in protecting these threatened and endangered species.
The nesting ritual of the loggerhead sea turtle is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena occurring on Sanibel's Gulf beaches. This natural process has happened on Sanibel for centuries and the 11 miles of Gulf shoreline have more nesting activity than any other beach in Lee County. Sought by predators and susceptible to dehydration, sea turtle hatchlings have only a one in 1,000 chance of survival. Human activities can further reduce that chance.
By following these simple guidelines, residents and visitors can do their part to ensure the survival of these magnificent creatures:
1. Turn off or shield lights near the beaches. Artificial beach lighting can inhibit female sea turtles from nesting and disorient hatchlings. Most beachfront lighting issues can be addressed by turning off all unnecessary lights, repositioning or modifying light fixtures, or closing blinds and drapes.
2. Remove furniture and other items from the beach and dune area, when not in use, between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. Items left on the beach including beach furniture, toys and trash may provide barriers to nesting, or result in entanglement and predation of hatchlings.
3. Level all sandcastles and fill any holes dug during play. These are fine during the day, but may pose additional hazards at night. Please leave the beach as you found it, so that sea turtles and hatchlings are not hindered on their way to nest or to the water.
4. Pick up all trash. Sea turtles mistakenly eat debris, especially plastic, which results in death.
5. Honor the leash law. All dogs on the beach must be on a leash and not allowed to disturb nesting turtles or hatchlings.
As a reminder, the city's dark-skies and beachfront lighting standards are applicable and enforced year-round. Gulf-front property owners should make sure that their properties are in compliance with the city's sea turtle protection ordinances and ensure that artificial lighting from the property is not illuminating the beach (Sanibel Code Section 74-181-74-183, Section 126-996-126-1002). An easy way to test if a property is in compliance is to stand on the beach on a moonless night and look seaward. If you can see your shadow cast towards the water, there is too much light behind you. This light could potentially deter female turtles from nesting or disorient hatchlings as they emerge from the nest.
In 2016, a record number of nests were laid on Sanibel. Of the 636 nests laid, 336 hatched, and it is estimated that over 22,000 sea turtle hatchlings successfully made their march into the ocean!
Violations should be reported immediately to the Sanibel Police Department at (239) 472-3111, Sanibel Code Enforcement (239) 472-4136, or Natural Resources at (239) 472-3700.
For more information regarding sea turtles on Sanibel, visit