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Edisto officials take extra efforts to help sea turtles

Cooler ocean temperatures could impact this year’s Loggerhead Sea Turtle nesting season, but local officials are already busy trying to give the incoming turtles as many opportunities as possible to boost this year’s numbers.

Edisto currently has two nests. That is five fewer nests than what should be on the beach right now.

Also, in 2017, there were 61 nests. Three years ago, in 2015, there were 103 sea turtle nests on Edisto Beach. “That’s the goal for this year. The goal is to always have more than the year before, but we follow the nests in three-year cycles,” said Ann Clark Little, a permit holder for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. Little is also working with the Edisto Beach Loggerhead Turtle Project.

This volunteer-based agency is being led this year by Susan Porth, the acting president. The group works each year on the beach to help boost nest numbers. The group looks for newly-laid nests and then protects them so that dogs or humans won’t interfere with them. The group also tries to enforce the town’s “lights out” ordinance, which requires that all lights on beachfront houses be turned off at dusk. This is because lights interfere with the journey of newly-hatched sea turtles that use moonlight to find the ocean.

According to Little, the sea turtle season this year is facing a few big factors that could be set-backs. Those include a changed beach front from last year’s busy hurricane season and cooler ocean water temperatures.

“If the beach was exactly the way it was three years ago, we would be looking at a solid year,” she said. “But the beach has changed from the hurricanes. And the water temperatures are much cooler than this time last year.

“The creeks have a current water temperature of 77-degrees, and the ocean is 70-degrees. It sounds warm to us, but it should have been warm a month ago.”

Little says an expected increase in the town’s tourist season is also a concerning factor. “People digging sandcastles on the beach and not filling them in, and then leaving tents on the beach at the end of the day are all factors on the beach that make it worse for the turtles,” she said. “I remember being a kid and how much fun I had building sandcastles, and that is wonderful. But we are asking people to fill in any holes left on the beach at the end of the day,” she said. Little is also reminding beach-goers to remove all items from the beach when they leave at the end of the day.

To help promote good beach behaviors, and to increase the sea turtle’s chances of survival and nesting this year, the Edisto Beach Loggerhead Turtle Project has partnered this year with the Wyndham Resort, a large rental company on the beach. Guests staying at the resort this summer will have the opportunity to do educational morning walks with the turtle patrol volunteers, said Little. These will likely occur once a week, she said, with the guests of the resort needing to contact the resort’s officials if they are interested in the walks. These will occur during the duration of the sea turtle nesting season, which starts in May and lasts through November.

To sign up for these tours, Little says people can contact Wyndham Resort Guest Services.

For a complete list of town rules and tips associated with helping sea turtles, go to the Edisto Beach Web site at www.townofedisto.com.

Heather Walters (1410 Posts)