Sea Turtle Conservation Program
The Sea Turtle Conservation Program offers presentations for student groups and other large groups. Read on to learn about the Nighttime Hatchling Release Program and for information on sea turtles, how artificial lights affects them negatively, what to do if you see a stranded sea turtle and how you can help keep them safe.
To request material in accessible format, information on access for persons with disabilities or sign language interpreter services (seven days in advance) call Accessibility Services or TDD.
Educational program for large groups
Learn about sea turtles through a presentation conducted by a sea turtle specialist. Presentations include real sea turtle artifacts such as shells, skulls and the different items that they eat. You'll learn about what they eat, why they come to Miami-Dade County's shores and where they are found.
For up to 35 students:
- $99 per presentation
- $75 for an additional presentation of the same program, on the same day
Large group rate
- Only available at your site
- $199 for first presentation
- $99 for an additional presentation of the same program, on the same day, up to five
Call Main Office for additional pricing options.
Watch sea turtles hatch
Watch a hatchling release and learn more about sea turtles through our Nighttime Hatchling Release Program. Tickets are a $10 donation, which is used to benefit our sea turtle programs and conservation efforts. Ticket sales for the hatchling release program typically start July 1. Visit the Miami-Dade County Parks Sea Turtle Conservation Program's Facebook page for updates on ticket sales.
Buy your ticket by typing "sea turtle" in the search bar of our online registration system.
About sea turtles
All sea turtles are either threatened or endangered. They are protected under federal, state and local laws. The following threaten the sea turtle population:
- Artificial lighting and urban sky glow
- Boating traffic
- Plastic ingestion
- Entanglement with fishing gear
- Coastal development and loss of nesting habitat
Florida has one of the largest numbers of nesting loggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtles in the world. Miami-Dade County beaches are a nesting habitat for the green (Chelonia mydas), and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtles, and occasionally the Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) sea turtles. Both inshore and off shore waters offer developmental habitat for these sea turtles.
About 600 nests are laid on Miami-Dade County beaches every year.
Sea turtle nesting season in Miami-Dade County runs May 1 to Oct. 31 each year. However, nesting can occur before or after these dates. Monitoring times can also change with permitting requirements for approved beach projects. STCP staff work under the staff of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission surveys most County beaches, including seven municipalities and two County parks.
STCP work under a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission nesting survey permit (#MTP 18-017). It is issued to the STCP manager.
During nesting season, surveys are conducted daily to monitor, record and study all sea turtle nesting activity. If a crawl is determined to have resulted in a nest, staff mark off the area with stakes, neon tape and a nest sign to protect the nest during incubation.
Once a nest hatches, about 100 sea turtle hatchlings will make their way to the water. The hatchlings are given three days to hatch on their own. After, the nest area is dug into to record the nest contents, which assists with state-wide monitoring of sea turtle populations.
Any live and healthy hatchlings found in the nest are kept in a dark, quiet room until evening to keep them calm and help conserve their energy for when they're released at night.
Sea turtles and artificial lights
Artificial lights cause problems for hatchlings as they come out from their nests and instinctively crawl toward the brightest direction at night.
Naturally, the brightest light would be the reflection of the night sky over the ocean. Unfortunately, some highly active and developed coastal areas in the County disorient hatchlings with its bright, artificial lights. These lights cause them to crawl inland and away from the ocean, or to wander aimlessly on the beach, burning up energy that is important for their survival if they do reach the sea.
These lights can also discourage female turtles from coming ashore to nest or cause female turtles to select less-than-optimal nesting sites. Disoriented hatchlings often die from dehydration, exhaustion, being attacked or eaten and even passing cars on the street.
STCP is working to correct problematic lighting across the County's beaches and educate the public about the effects of artificial light pollution on sea turtles. Many local municipalities have established lighting laws and have been working with STCP to update their code to current standards and technology for sea turtle lighting.
Sea turtle lighting compliance trainings are offered to local code enforcement, and the program strives to communicate regularly with the municipalities to address concerns.
Learn more about sea turtle protection laws and contacts in your area, or contact your municipality's code enforcement department.
What to do if you see a stranded sea turtle
If you find a stranded sea turtle (alive or dead), call Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) 24-hour wildlife hotline at 1-888-404-3922, dial *FWC from your mobile phone, or call us at 305-310-3046. Follow the staff member's instructions, who will report to the scene as soon as possible. (If it is after business hours, leave a voicemail, which is monitored regularly.
Be prepared to answer the following questions:
- What is the location of the turtle?
- Is the turtle alive or dead?
- What is the approximate size of the turtle?
- Is the turtle marked with spray paint?
- Are there nearby access points to the turtle?
Ways you can help keep sea turtles safe
Without your support, the survival of sea turtles on the planet is uncertain. Here are some ways you can help sea turtles:
- Avoid walking on the beach at night during nesting season (May 1 through Oct. 31). No matter how quiet, people can scare nesting sea turtles back into the sea. If you do find a sea turtle on the beach at night, do not approach or disturb nesting sea turtles.
- Never interfere or pick up hatchlings emerging from nests or walking along the beach. Without the right permits, this is a violation of the law. Hatchlings have limited energy reserves and they need to crawl to the water to strengthen their flippers and orient themselves so they can return in the future. If you observe hatchlings travelling away from the ocean, call FWC at their 24 hour wildlife hotline: 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or *FWC from your mobile device.
- Keep lights low to the ground, pointed downward, and shielded from sight from the beach during nesting season. Sea turtles cannot see long wavelength light well, so change bulbs to amber or red LED lights to reduce the amount of visible light. Hatchlings can be disoriented by the bright lights and nesting females can be deterred from nesting. Learn more about lighting options for sea turtle nesting beaches.
- Keep County beaches and waters clean. Do not throw plastic bags in the ocean. Plastic bags in the ocean look like a favorite food of sea turtles (jellyfish) and can cause illness or death if eaten. Other harmful objects include balloons, 6-pack rings, monofilament fishing lines, Styrofoam containers and cigarette butts.
- Stay clear of marked sea turtle nests on the beach. It is a violation of state and federal law to disturb a sea turtle, its nest, eggs or hatchlings. If you encounter a person poaching or vandalizing a nest, call the local police or FWC (1-888-404-3922 or *FWC from your mobile phone). Do NOT try to interfere or stop the event yourself.
- Never use flashlights, flash photography or video camera lights on the beach at night during turtle season. Lights can disturb and cause disorientation of nesting turtles and hatchlings.
- Spread awareness in your local community about sea turtles.
- Keep up to date with this program! Follow us on Miami-Dade County Parks Sea Turtle Conservation Program's Facebook page and Miami-Dade Sea Turtles on Instagram.