There are six species of sea turtles which are protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Florida’s protected turtles include green, loggerhead, leatherback, hawksbill and Kemp‘s ridley. All of these species nest annually on beaches around the entire state of Florida.
Federal law prohibits disturbing sea turtles while they are nesting, their nests and hatchlings as they make their way to the ocean. States in which sea turtles nest also have their own set of laws and penalties. Sea turtles are protected by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Act of 1977.
Sea turtles are also protected under the Marine Turtle Protection Act. This act states that “no person may take, possess, disturb, mutilate, destroy, cause to be destroyed, sell, offer for sale, transfer, molest or harass any marine sea turtle or its nests or eggs at any times.”
It is a criminal offense in Florida to disturb a sea turtle, her nest and her hatchlings which is punishable by up to 60 days in prison, a $100-$500 fine, or both. That is just for the first offense. If someone is convicted a second time within one-year of the first offense, they can face up to six months in prison, a $250-$1000 fine, or both. The penalties and fees continue going up from there with each additional offense.
Federal penalties include jail time and fines up to $15,000 for each offense.
Keep these penalties in mind when you encounter a sea turtle, her nest or dozens of hatchlings during your next visit to the beach. It will make you think twice before picking one up or disturbing it.
For more information about the laws protecting sea turtles visit the following sites:
- Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources
- National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Protected Resources
You can also request additional information by writing:
National Sea Turtle Coordinator
US Fish and Wildlife Services
6620 Southpoint Drive South, Suite 310
Jacksonville, FL 32216
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