By Kendall McGee | May 30, 2020 at 7:04 PM EDT – Updated May 30 at 7:41 PM
OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) – New restrictions that have been put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 will limit access to sea turtles this season.
Groups like the Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization have always let the public know about new nest activity and invited them along to learn about the endangered creatures. The events usually garner huge crowds of people standing shoulder, which is why state wildlife officials are implementing new social distancing guidelines.
“We can have hundreds of people at a turtle nest. They’re not only standing shoulder to shoulder but they’re 5 and 6 people deep and they’re family members and friends and strangers, all standing too close together,” said Ocean Isle Beach Sea Turtle Protection Organization coordinator Deb Allen. “Everybody loves sea turtles and everybody loves a baby sea turtle so we want them to know whats going on. Its good for the turtles when we share that love.”
No announcements about attending to a freshly laid nest, nest sitting, or inventorying a nest will be shared with the public under the new rules. Volunteers will still greet and educate people if they happen to stumble upon nesting activity on the beach, but organizations will not be announcing developments on their social media pages.
Twenty five foot perimeter boxes will be set up when volunteers are working on the beach and volunteers are required to wear masks. Occupancy rules also make holding educational programs like Ocean Isle Beach’s “Turtle Talk” extremely difficult.
“We know its gonna be a challenging summer because we love sharing everything about sea turtles because when you educate people about sea turtles and the plight of the sea turtles and why we need to protect them, there’s more people protecting them, there’s more advocates and I feel like this summer we wont be able to reach as many hearts as we like to,” said Allen.
If there is a silver lining to the restrictions, Allen says the decreased beach traffic might be helpful in protecting turtles from artificial lights on the beach at night. Because turtles use the glow of the moon and the reflection of the waves to traverse their surroundings, outdoor lights disrupt their natural navigation system and can put the species in jeopardy.
To report any sea turtle activity on Ocean Isle Beach, call 704-607-2027 or the Ocean Isle Beach Police Department at 910-579-4221.
Sea turtle volunteers know that our presence and actions on the beach often attract the attention of the general public….
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