Loggerhead Sea Turtle time!



Loggerhead Turtle

May 9, 2011 ~ Hilton Head Island is the largest barrier island on the South Carolina coast. It is comprised of gated communities, private homes, condominiums, and multi-story, oceanfront homes. Like most of the barrier islands along the southeast coast, the north and south ends are fairly stable, but the mid-portion is erosional. A rock revetment was constructed on the mid-portion, and beach nourishment has provided a dry beach here. 

Loggerheads nest on all areas of Hilton Head’s sandy shore and there are many stretches of good nesting habitat. Although there are small pocket beaches on the side of the island facing Port Royal Sound, very little nesting occurs here. Most nests are laid along the ocean-facing beach. Hilton Head Island has 18.5 km of beach on the Atlantic Ocean and 7.2 km of beach on Port Royal Sound. Twenty-three km of beach are regularly patrolled by the current project. A sea turtle protection project was founded in 1981. Hilton Head averages 150 nests per season. Turtles lay their eggs from May to mid-August. The eggs hatch from July to October.

Common Name: Loggerhead Sea Turtle
Scientific Name: Caretta caretta
Adult Size: 30-42 inches in Carapace (back of the shell) length
300-400 Pounds
Adult Diet: Crabs, Molluscs, Shellfish
Status: Federally Threatened, Globally Endangered

Loggerhead Sea Turtles (caretta caretta) are reptiles related to land turtles, lizards and snakes. Adapted to live in the ocean, loggerheads have powerful flippers and an aerodynamic body that allows them to move gracefully through the ocean. Loggerhead Sea Turtles nest on the beaches of Hilton Head Island between May and August. An adult females will nest every two to four years, coming ashore between 4 and 6 times per season to lay eggs. Loggerheads typically nest at night, crawling to a dry part of the beach where females will dig a nest cavity with their rear flippers and deposit an average of 120 eggs. Once the eggs have been laid, the female throws sand to disguise the nest from predators and slowly returns to the ocean.After about 60 days of incubation, the small turtles within the eggs begin to hatch. During the cool night, the 2 inch long hatchlings emerge from the nest, orient themselves towards the brightest horizon, and crawl towards the ocean. Once in the water, hatchlings swim many miles offshore where they will spend the next 25-30 years of their life growing to adulthood.

The Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project monitors sea turtle nesting and hatching activity on Hilton Head Island from May to October. This conservation project began in 1985 and is managed by the Coastal Discovery Museum.
Ways You Can Help Protect Sea Turtles:
  • Turn Beachfront Lights Off May 1 – October 31
  • Remove Beach Litter
  • Fill in Sand Holes and Smooth Sand Castles
  • Report injured Turtles
  • Leave Nest Sites Undisturbed
  • Do Not Shine Flashlights or Take Flash Photographs of Nesting Turtles


Hilton Head turtle nesting map. 1999-2010

November 4, 2012

A record number of sea turtle nests were reported in South Carolina this season, according to data from the state Department of Natural Resources.

Of 4,604 loggerhead sea turtle nests on the state’s beaches, 544 were counted on Hilton Head, Daufuskie and Fripp islands and at Hunting Island State Park.

It’s the highest number of nests recorded in the state in the past 30 years, according to DNR’s website.

Last year — and 2010 — also were record-breaking, with 4,024 and 3,150 nests respectively.

Lawsuit filed over endangered sea turtles

November 2,2012

Two conservation groups filed a lawsuit Friday challenging a new federal rule that nearly doubles limits on how many endangered sea turtles Hawaii’s longline swordfish fishery can accidentally hook before being shut down. The lawsuit alleges that the National Marine Fisheries Service failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act when it used an inadequate biological opinion that substantially increased the number of endangered sea turtles that can be incidentally caught.

The conservation groups accuse the National Marine Fisheries Service of rolling back protections that capped the number of sea turtles that could be caught at 17 endangered loggerheads and 16 endangered leatherbacks.

Under the new rule issued in October and going into effect Monday, 34 loggerhead and 26 leatherback turtles can be incidentally caught before the fishery would be forced to shut down.

“They are both on a trajectory to go extinct eventually, and being caught in fisheries is well-known to be a major cause,” said lawyer Paul Achitoff with Earthjustice, the law firm that filed the lawsuit in Honolulu federal court on behalf of Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The fishery experienced mandatory shutdowns in 2006 and 2011.

Wende Goo, spokeswoman for NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Region, said the agency had not yet received the lawsuit but planned to review it.

The agency has about two months to respond, Achitoff said.

When the shallow-set longline fishery spreads out 60-miles of fishing line, with as many as 1,000 baited hooks attached and gear suspended near the surface of the water, it results in untold numbers of sea turtles, dolphins and seabirds being killed, said Todd Steiner, Turtle Island Restoration Network’s executive director.

Miyoko Sakashita, the Center for Biological Diversity’s oceans director, said sea turtles will soon be extinct unless they are protected from drowning in fishing gear.

“It’s tragic that these large commercial fisheries are killing animals by the thousands for the sake of a few profitable swordfish,” she said in a statement.

The lawsuit also challenges a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in August that allows longliners to catch Laysan and Black-footed albatross without requiring measures that could lessen the number of birds killed. The permit allows up to 191 Black-footed albatross and 430 Laysan albatrosses to be incidentally caught over three years.

Achitoff said if fishing line was dispensed from the sides of the longliners instead of off the back it could result in far fewer seabird deaths. With side-setting of line, by the time the baited hooks reach the back of boats where seabirds have access to them, they have sunk low enough in the water to be out of reach, he said.

“We want the fisheries to be required to use the best available technology to minimize the catching of these birds,” he said.