Sea Turtle Conservation Program
The Miami-Dade County Sea Turtle Conservation Program, a division of the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department provides protection to the endangered and threatened sea turtle species in Miami-Dade County through conservation, education, and community outreach.
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 programs for large groups
Explore the wonders of these ancient creatures that visit our South Florida beaches without having to leave dry land. Learn more about our magnificent sea turtles; what they eat, why they come to our shores and what our program does on a daily basis in a presentation conducted by one of our knowledgeable sea turtle specialists. Presentations include real sea turtle artifacts such as shells, skulls and the different items that they eat.
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.
Attend a public nighttime hatchling release
Learn more about sea turtles through our Nighttime Hatchling Release Program. This is a once in a lifetime experience for the public to learn more about our sea turtles and to observe them being released by STCP staff on the beach at night. Tickets are a $10 donation, which is used to benefit our sea turtle programs and conservation efforts. Tickets sell out quick and 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
Miami-Dade County's most common nesting sea turtle is the loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Florida serves as one of the largest nesting aggregations for loggerhead sea turtles in the world. Miami-Dade County beaches are also important nesting habitat for the green (Chelonia mydas), and leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) sea turtles. Both inshore and offshore waters offer developmental habitat for all of our nesting sea turtles and often other species such as the Kemp's Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imricata) sea turtles can also be found forging in nearby waters.
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 a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued Marine Turtle Permit to survey the majority of County beaches, including seven municipalities and two County parks. STCP authorized personnel work under the FWC nesting survey permit (#MTP-017), and 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.
Each nest will have approximately 100 hatchlings that will emerge and make their way to the ocean. Once in the water, it is thought that only one out of a thousand hatchlings will actually survive to adulthood, making conservation efforts incredibly important for the species.
Sea turtles and artificial lights
Artificial lights cause problems for hatchlings as they emerge from their nests at night and instinctively crawl toward the brightest direction. On a dark, natural beach this 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 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. Disoriented hatchlings often die from dehydration, exhaustion, being attacked or eaten and even passing cars on the street.
Artificial lighting can also discourage nesting female turtles from coming ashore or we tend to see evidence of higher nesting on our darker beaches. If darker nesting sites are limited she may come onto land several times to attempt to nest and eventually give up and choose a less-than-optimal nesting site for her eggs.
STCP is working to aid in correcting problematic lighting across the County's beaches through educating the public about the effects of artificial light pollution on sea turtles. Many local municipalities have established lighting ordinances and have been working with FWC to update their code to current standards and technology for sea turtle lighting.
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 dead, sick or injured sea turtle, please 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 any instructions given by the staff, who will report to the scene as soon as possible. (If it is calling after business hours, please leave a voicemail, which is monitored regularly, and we will get back to you as quickly as possible).
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:
- Please respect sea turtles natural behaviors and share the beach: Do not approach or harass nesting sea turtles or hatchlings. Although large reptiles, nesting sea turtles scare easily.
- 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. 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 or our nighttime response line at 786-719-6836.
- For necessary lighting keep it low, shielded, and long Keep lights low to the ground, pointed downward and shielded from sight from the beach. Sea turtles cannot see long wavelength light well, changing bulbs to amber or red LED reduces the chance for disorientation. Learn more about lighting options for sea turtle nesting beaches.
- Keep County beaches and waters clean. Properly dispose of garbage – don’t litter! Sea turtles may mistake debris for food. Imagine the resemblance between a floating plastic bag and a jelly fish!
- 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.
- Don’t use bonfires, flashlights, flash photography or video camera lights on the beach at night. Bright lights can disturb and cause disorientation of nesting turtles and hatchlings.
- Spread awarenessin 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 pageand Miami-Dade Sea Turtles on Instagram.
- Donate to our program to help us continue protecting sea turtles in Miami-Dade! We partner with Miami-Dade Parks Foundation to accept donations to keep our efforts ongoing.