SCCF's Sea Turtle Program

Sea turtles are among the world’s oldest creatures. The seven species that can be found today have been on the earth for about 110 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs. These ancient reptiles have long fascinated people around the world and are some of our islands’ most treasured natural resources.

Sea turtle monitoring on Sanibel originally began in the late 1950’s with Charles Lebuff and Caretta Research, Inc., making it one of the longest running monitoring programs in the country. The program was transferred to the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation in 1992 when Caretta Research, Inc. disbanded.

Every year in late spring, loggerhead sea turtles arrive on Sanibel and Captiva for the nesting season. The SCCF Sea Turtle Program surveys 18 miles of beach from the Sanibel lighthouse to Redfish Pass every morning from April to October. Over 100 volunteers help with the daily search for tracks that female sea turtles leave behind when they emerged from the sea the night before. Sometimes sea turtles go back to the water without laying eggs, which is known as a non-nesting emergence. If it's determined that the turtle successfully laid eggs, the nest is watched over until the eggs hatch and there are signs of the hatchlings crawling to the Gulf. Storms, humans, and predators may disturb or destroy the nests, reducing their survival. After the nests hatch, SCCF scientists evaluate them to determine the number of hatchlings that successfully emerged.

In addition to nest protection activities, program staff also educate the public about the threats that sea turtles face, respond to live and dead sea turtles that wash up on the beach, participate in collaborative research projects, and help monitor beach construction projects. The Sea Turtle Program operates under a permit granted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

To report any issues with nests, nesting turtles, or hatchlings, please call our Sea Turtle Hotline: 978-728-3663 

Please keep our beaches sea turtle friendly:

  • Turn off or shield all lights that are visible from the beach. Do not use flashlights or cell phone lights on the beach. If necessary, use amber or red LED bulbs.
  • Do not disturb the screens covering nests. They prevent predators from eating the eggs and the hatchlings emerge through the holes without assistance.
  • Remove all beach furniture and equipment from the beach at night.
  • Dispose of fishing line properly to avoid wildlife entanglement.
  • Fill in large holes that can trap hatchlings and nesting sea turtles.
  • Do not disturb nesting turtles – please do not to get too close, shine lights on, or take flash photos of nesting sea turtles.
  • Pick up litter.