It’s Turtle Time

By Louise Irvine

From March to July, more than 100 thousand female sea turtles return to Florida’s beaches to lay their eggs. Residents and visitors need to be vigilant to ensure the safety of the sea turtles, their nests, and hatchlings, which are protected under Federal and state law. Dive In to WMODA to see how artists have celebrated these amazing creatures in ceramics and glass.

A few years ago, Brenna Baker of Hollywood Hot Glass was commissioned to produce hundreds of baby sea turtles in glass to celebrate the endangered species that hatch on the beaches of Broward County. Many ceramic artists have portrayed sea turtles, including Lladro’s realistic porcelain study by José Santaeulalia, which is featured in our DIVE into WMODA exhibition. Fashion designer turned ceramic artist, Sally Tuffin, used the pattern of the turtles’ carapace to create striking designs for her Dennis Chinaworks collection.

The Loggerhead is the most common sea turtle in Florida. Adults weigh an average of 275 pounds and have a shell length of about 3 feet. They can live up to 80 years, about the same lifespan of humans. However, most sea turtles are now endangered due to illegal fishing methods and black-market demand. Females reach maturity around 35 years and mate in coastal waters every two to three years. They return to nest on the beach where they were hatched decades earlier

Under cover of darkness, the female sea turtles make their way up the sand and dig holes with their rear flippers to deposit around 100 eggs the size of ping-pong balls. They cover their nests so that they are completely hidden, and the baby turtles emerge from their nests between 45 and 70 days later. Under the veil of night, they begin their instinctive march to the sea. Experts estimate that the odds are 1000:1 against a baby sea turtle living long enough to reproduce so our cooperation is essential.

The hatchlings use whitecaps and the moonlight reflecting on the water to guide them to the sea, so it is important not to use flashlights or flash cameras on the beach. Car headlights also disorient them so there are requirements to dim them on beach-side roads. When you have finished playing on the beach, knock down your sandcastles and remove all your trash, which are major challenges for the baby turtles.

The best way to see the sea turtles nesting without disturbing them is on a walk approved by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Imperiled Species Management Section.


Alex Wexler's art in Gyotaku, the Japanese Art of Fishing
Dive in with Roger Cockram
Florida Sea Turtle Program