Sea turtles are thriving as coronavirus lockdown empties Florida beaches

With many beaches closed in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19, sea turtles in Florida are nesting in peace.

Posted: Apr 20, 2020 9:11 PM
Updated: Apr 20, 2020 9:11 PM

Sea turtles in Florida are nesting in peace -- for now.

With the beaches in Florida closed in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, researchers are seeing less plastic and waste, fewer people and vehicles on the beach and less disorientation for emerging hatchlings that's caused by artificial lights on the beach, David Godfrey, Executive Director for the Sea Turtle Conservancy told CNN.

And because of these factors, the sea turtles are able to build without any disruptions.

No people, no problem

Nesting season for leatherback turtles, the largest of all sea turtles, is underway right now mostly in the central east and southeast coast of Florida, according to Godfrey. They nest in fewer numbers than the loggerheads, who arrive in May. Later in the summer months is when green turtles will arrive.

It takes about 60 days for sea turtle eggs to incubate and for hatchlings to emerge, Godfrey said.

But during that time on an active beach, lots of things can happen to that nest -- it can get trampled, people can dig it up, and artificial light can harm the hatchlings.

With an inactive beach, the situation might be quite different.

"I think there is a strong likelihood that we will see decreased human-caused impacts on sea turtle nesting this year, which is a rare silver lining to this global pandemic," Godfrey said. "It's premature to try and use numbers to demonstrate what we all think and hope is happening. The numbers just aren't there yet. I hear that the season is going pretty well so far, it's off to a good start."

Less foot traffic helps the reptiles right now, but what will happen when the beaches reopen and the sea turtles' eggs begin to hatch? Godfrey said researchers are working in uncharted territory and only time will tell.

An influx of nests

In Juno Beach, 60 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, Dr. Justin Perrault, Director of Research at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center told CNN they have counted 72 nests on their beach so far; 71 were leatherback nests and one was a loggerhead nest.

Godfrey said when the nesting season culminates in late October, researchers will be able to measure how successful it was. Toward the end of April is when they will see hatchlings from the leatherback sea turtles.

Perrault said his team does worry that when the beaches reopen, there may be an influx of people flocking to the beach because they were stuck indoors for an extended period of time.

"It just depends on the behavior of people after the closures end," he said "And if there's an excessive amount on the beaches, then more people means more interaction with turtles, which can be negative if they don't follow the rules."

The city of Jacksonville announced beaches and parks in Duval County will open Friday with certain restrictions starting at 5 pm, according to the city's Twitter page.

"Beaches will only be open from 6 am to 11 am and 5 pm to 8 pm," the tweet said.

In a video statement, Mayor Lenny Curry cited Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' executive order and said the beaches will only be open for essential activities like walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing while social distancing from others.

"My executive order for social distancing guidelines that limits gathering to fewer than 50 people still stands," Curry said.

City parks will be open for normal business hours, but public gathering locations like pavilions and picnic areas will remain closed.

Perrault said when people do return, it'll be important for them to keep lights off when it's possible, maintain distance from marine animals and leave the beach the way they found it.

"Remember that we're not the only species out there," he said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845108

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161242006
Mobile741961379
Madison53291732
Shelby38328368
Baldwin38074589
Tuscaloosa36017641
Montgomery34483781
Lee25557263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22454406
Etowah20016517
Marshall18781316
Houston17729425
St. Clair16880358
Limestone16138218
Cullman16050303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14984306
Talladega14191299
DeKalb12971269
Walker12029380
Blount10715192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10161194
Coffee9415192
Colbert9341208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7255201
Russell707865
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6933195
Franklin6342108
Chambers5784142
Marion5403130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318389
Cherokee317763
Crenshaw260477
Washington257052
Cleburne254460
Lamar251453
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192862
Coosa185047
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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