Hurricane Florence impact on upcoming sea turtle nesting season

Hurricane Florence impact on upcoming sea turtle nesting season

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Walk the beaches of Topsail and Surf City and you know there’s still work to be done.

Hurricane Florence hit the island hard through three high tide cycles, and much of the dunes are gone.

“We’re worried, because Florence sat on us for a long time,” said Terry Meyer, the nesting director the The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehab Center. “All that wind and rain, the dunes are gone and she’s worried about the threat to the upcoming nesting season, later this spring.

“Turtles need dry, warm sand to incubate in for two months, so the chances are if the eggs were left in this environment, we’d have very little success if any,” said Meyer. “We don’t want settled water, and our beaches are pretty beat up right now.”

About two miles down the road at the turtle rehab center, they’re thinking ahead.

“Oh, we’re very concerned about the state of the beaches,” said Jean Beasley, who founded the place. “We may have to be busy on moving day.”

That’s not the best case scenario. The hope is the dunes will be built back up in time for turtles to lay their eggs. Beasley says it’s important to remember turtles have been round for millions of years and one hurricane isn’t going to do them in. But that doesn’t mean they won’t need some help.

“”We need to be able to relocate nests that are in dangerous places to places where the beaches are more stable,” said Beasley. We sort of re-create mother turtle’s nest, being very careful to keep the eggs in the same positions like they would be in the nest, so those embryos have a fighting chance if they’re already attached to the body of the egg.”

Nesting season is still more than two months out.

There’s currently an on-going effort to help re-nourish the coast line.

“The town and the state are working very hard, concerned of the coast,” said Beasley. “But we’re in talks with the North Carolina’s Sea Turtle Coordinator with the NC Wildlife Commission to help mitigate some of the damage done by Hurricane Florence to help the turtles as much as possible."

Beasley admits there have been many calls from concerned people about the fate of the turtles this season, but she says there needs to be a real dose of perspective.

“Turtles are very resilient. After all, they’ve been around longer than dinosaurs,” said Beasley. “They’ve survived all the cataclysmic events that wiped out the dinosaurs. Hurricanes are not the long term problem, here. The big issue remains plastics and what humans continue to do to the planet. If we can’t keep toxic chemicals out of the oceans and our rivers and streams, not only can it mean the demise of the sea turtles, but the human population as well."

For more information on the work that’s being done for sea turtles at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, click here.

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