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10 Facts That Will Make You Sea Turtle Savvy for Your Ocean Isle Beach Vacation

Majestic and ancient, SEA TURTLES are one of the most beloved treasures along Ocean Isle Beach. Out of the seven species of sea turtles roaming the world’s oceans, five of those species find their way to the shores of North Carolina on a regular basis. Visitors and locals are all encouraged to learn more about these flippered friends, and do their part to bring our turtles off the endangered and threatened species lists. It is time to ask some serious questions, and discover some fun facts about North Carolina’s sea turtles.

What in the world makes Sea Turtles So Special?

Sea turtles are fascinating in so many ways. In addition to being an exquisite member of the reptile family, they are also rather rare. There are only seven species of sea turtles in the world, 6 of which are listed as threatened or endangered. Despite sharing a similar habitat, thefive species that find their way to the North Carolina coast each year, they are all very different. These differences are called “ecological niches”. When you study the Loggerheads, Kemp’s Ridley, Leatherback, Green, and Hawksbill sea turtles (our NC guests), you will find subtle and not-so-subtle differences based on their diet, geographic zones, and reproductive needs. For example, a Green Sea Turtle has a serrated bill that allows it to cut through seagrasses and algae. The Leatherback has long flippers for traveling great distances throughout the ocean.

Feasting on a diet of jellyfish, seaweed, crabs, shrimp, sponges, snails, algae and mollusks, sea turtles vary greatly in size and weight. The Kemp’s Ridley will grow to about 30 inches and 80-100 pounds, whereas theLeatherback can grow to lengths of 6.5 feet and weight as much as 2,000 pounds. Once a sea turtle reaches reproductive age, they will typically mate along the coastline, adjacent to nesting grounds. A female sea turtles will migrate back the region where she was hatched, crawl out of the surf at night, dig a hole in the sand, deposit 70-190 eggs in the nest, cover it with sand, and then return to the ocean.

What happened to the Sea Turtles?

There are several reasons why sea turtles populations have declined. They have been poached and exploited for their eggs, meat, skin and shells. Habitat destruction along our coastlines and accidental capture in fishing gear has also been detrimental to sea turtles. Turtles have also been impacted by climate change, jeopardizing nesting conditions.
Our yummy beach treats and fun toys can create trash, which can lead to turtle tragedy. In 2012, a Loggerhead sea turtle was found, nearly lifeless, floating in the inlet at Ocracoke Island, NC. She was transferred to The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on Topsail Island, NC, where she was treated…and sadly died. During her time at the center, she passed various clear plastics, styrofoam, string, and even a quarter. When turtles eat plastics, it causes them to feel full without offering any nourishment. Our trash spelled disaster for this Loggerhead. However, another turtle treated at the center had a much happier ending. A Green turtle had been found near Shackleford Banks, and after several weeks she passed two small pieces of balloon. This could have been a life-threatening, but after proper treatment and rest, the turtle was released back into the ocean.

How do we turn the tables for Sea Turtles?

It has been reported that only 1 in 1,000 hatchlings will live to reproduce. In order to turn around the sea turtle crisis, locals and visitor should endeavors to make small efforts that could greatly increase the survival rate of our sea turtle friends. Allowing greater opportunity for juvenile turtles to grow to maturity, and then have sustainable nesting grounds in a big part of sea turtle conservation. Located in the southern reaches of the NC coast,Ocean Isle Beach usually receives around 25 nests each summer. This is an opportunity for thousands of Leatherback, Loggerhead and Green sea turtle hatchlings to thrive.
Here are a few ways that you can help:

Want an opportunity to learn more about Sea Turtles?

Throughout the summer, there are two opportunities each week to engage in aTurtle Talk on Ocean Isle Beach. The Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protections Organization offers Turtles Talks, educational information, nest monitoring, internships and various volunteer opportunities. Another great resource in the NC Sea Turtle Project, run by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. In addition to monitoring the conditions of sea turtles along the NC coast, this project also helps to bridge the gap between volunteer and biologists…who are all working together to make the world a better place for sea turtles.

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