No kidding. Turtle lovers, the conservationists, not graffiti-crazed kids with cans of spray paint, say there is a connection between the future of human life on earth and the future of sea turtles.
That’s important to residents of the Atlantic coast from the Carolinas to Florida, which of course includes some great beaches and dunes in Georgia. And it’s important this time of year, either peak or just past the nesting season on barrier island beaches for these impressive critters.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has reported that our loggerhead turtle population apparently is recovering and seems to be at record levels this year. Experts from various state agencies have identified more than a thousand loggerhead females “using the Georgia coast for nesting,” according to the website georgiawildlife.com, including at least 20 mother/daughter pairs.
“Because it takes at least thirty years for a loggerhead to begin nesting, that means no fewer than 20 of our turtles are at least 60 years old, nesting alongside their 30-year-old daughters.”
That’s a fun fact for sure, but I still wondered how a sea turtle’s ability to thrive and prosper on earth affected the rest of us, in terms of remaining extant. Here’s what I learned from several sources.
Sea turtles and manatees are among a very few animals to eat sea grass, keeping it short and strong, not wimpy or skimpy. That’s crucial because sea grass are breeding grounds for many species of fish, shellfish and crustaceans. So without beds of seagrass, much of what we consume from the sea would be lost and that, gradually, could affect humans.
Moreover, fewer sea turtles would lay fewer eggs in the dunes and beaches, which thus would erode over time. Dune health would suffer, having fewer nutrients. Fewer dunes and beaches would leave us with a lot of dry sand and we’d soon vacation elsewhere, ruining the economy of all those beach towns.
Beach volleyball would slowly, gracefully lose its popularity. In its absence, our beaches might become overpopulated with really overweight guys in Speedo thongs.
The whole thing is just too grim to contemplate. So we should care about sea turtles. They’ve been around for more than a hundred million years, I hear.
It’s almost too late for us to get in on the fun “nest walks,” but maybe not, if you hurry. The end of the nesting season doesn’t end on the same date every year, obviously.
The nest walks are via the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, in Glynn County on the Georgia coast near Brunswick.
The center website reports that “Early morning risers will explore barrier island ecology and witness a nest excavation on a hatched sea turtle nest.” And there’s a thirty minute, escorted ecology walk, led by a volunteer or staff member.
For information: georgiaseaturtlecenter.org.
Generally, when the turtles hatch, they make a bee-line - uh, turtle-line - for the ocean, apparently using the moonlight reflected off the water as their own Turtle GPS.
In some communities, local regulations require lights out on beachfront homes after dark. The turtles often confuse those with the moon shine and they unfortunately end up in the condo parking lot instead of the welcoming salt water of the ocean or the gulf.
Sometimes the turtles need us, just as we need them.