County Officials Warn Residents to Watch Out for Wash Backs.
Written by Kristen Schmutz
Belden Communications News
Thousands of hatchling sea turtles are emerging from the 880 nests that are located up and the coastal Volusia County Shoreline. This doesn’t include the tens of thousands of nests from other counties and in the Greater Caribbean.
As the baby sea turtles make their dangerous trek to the ocean, and the long swim to the floating seaweed beds of the Sargasso Sea, the young turtles become entangled in the seaweed and may be washed back on to shore due to strong surf and winds.
According to a release, the small turtles blend in with the seaweed, making them difficult to spot. Inevitably, they may die of dehydration if they are left on the beach or do not have the energy to make it back offshore.
“If you find a washback or hatchling on the beach that is in imminent danger, do not put it back in the ocean,” stressed Volusia County’s protected species manager, Jennifer Winters. “Instead, contact Beach Safety for further instruction. These animals are often exhausted and can barely lift their heads to breathe. Holding them in water or putting them in the ocean can be fatal.”
She encourages people to follow these tips:
- Make sure the turtle is out of harm’s way. Do not take it home.
- Provide shade over the turtle and determine your exact location. The address, building name, street name, or GPS location are most helpful.
- Immediately notify Beach Safety at 386-239-6414. Between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., call the Volusia Sheriff’s Office at 386-248-1777, ext. 6.
- Keep the turtle in a quiet, dry, shaded area – even if you think it’s dead. Staff from Beach Safety or a partner organization will coordinate with you to collect the turtle.
Wash backs are brought to the Marine Science Center, where they are treated and returned to the ocean by boat when they are strong enough to swim.
Volusia County’s Environmental Management Division has trained a team of Washback Watchers, who comb the beach each day as fresh seaweed washes in during the washback season, which lasts from August through November.
If you would like to become a Washback Watcher in 2021, call 386-238-4716 or visit volusiaseaturtles.org to be placed on the list for next year’s training class.
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