How do you make a great day of summer diving in West Palm Beach, Florida even better? Simple! Bring along a couple of extra diving friends! In this case, of the flippered kind. During today’s trip we took a little extra time to run out into deep water and release a group of sea turtle hatchlings under the watchful eye of one of the sea turtle permit holder from the Sea Turtle Conservation League of Singer Island.
(***Please read an important disclaimer at the bottom of this post regarding sea turtles.)
These little sea turtles were still at the bottom of the nest when it was dug out under permit three day after hatching during midmorning. To avoid predation nearshore, these little sea turtles got a free ride out to the Gulf Stream and released on a large sargassum sea weed patch. A few of the divers got in the water with the sea turtle permit holder to watch these little sea turtles begin their ocean adventure. Needless to say, everyone onboard was all smiles after this experience. Most importantly, everyone received a little sea turtle natural history education including proper etiquette and regulations regarding sea turtles on the beach.
The diving was pretty awesome, too! Summertime diving conditions meant we were enjoying Palm Beach’s colorful coral reefs and marine life with gorgeous blue warm water. Water temperatures in the lower 80s meant even I was sans wetsuit. That’s says a lot if this W.I.M.P. (Warm Intelligent Marine Professional) is not wearing a wetsuit. It’s REALLY nice and warm! 🙂
Our dives on Paul’s reef and Bath & Tennis were filled with all kinds of marine life encounters including numerous sea turtles, including a very large male green sea turtle, lots of eels, goliath groupers, and the thousands of tropical fish.
Sea turtles are either endangered or threatened (the loggerhead is the only species that has a population high enough to be only threatened in Florida). They are protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 and the Florida’s Marine Turtle Protection Act (379.2431, Florida Statutes).
Florida Statutes (F.A.C. Rule 68E-1) restrict the take, possession, disturbance, mutilation, destruction, selling, transference, molestation, and harassment of marine turtles, nests or eggs. Protection is also afforded to marine turtle habitat. A specific authorization from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff is required to conduct scientific, conservation, or educational activities that directly involve marine turtles in or collected from Florida, their nests, hatchlings or parts thereof, regardless of applicant’s possession of any federal permit.
The handling of these endangered sea turtle hatchlings was done under a Florida state permit provided to the Sea Turtle Conservation League of Singer Island. Under NO circumstances should you ever disturb a sea turtle. Severe penalties including jail time can be imposed.