NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Marine Division says the increase in sea turtle nests you’ve seen this year has a lot to do with the efforts volunteers and others have put in over the past 35 years.
Several volunteers and SCDNR employees help keep these creatures safe, especially after situations like Wednesday morning’s vandalism of four nests along the North Myrtle Beach shoreline.
This year, North Myrtle Beach has seen 20 more sea turtle nests than last year, and the sea turtle nesting season is not over yet.
“The increase that we’re seeing in nesting trends, a lot of that has to do with all of the efforts that folks have been putting in over the past 35 years,” said Erin Weeks, the media coordinator for SCDNR.
That’s the effort of numerous volunteer groups like North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol.
They’re not the only ones helping – SCDNR has a marine division devoted to protecting the turtles.
“South Carolina DNR oversees the management of sea turtles in South Carolina, and we do have a, we have a full-time staff of three sea turtle biologists who are responsible for the management of thousands and thousands of nests,” said Weeks.
To prevent vandals like the ones who demolished four nests Wednesday morning in North Myrtle Beach, it takes a group of volunteers to mark nests and egg cavities.
“They have two responsibilities,” said Linda Mataya, who holds the permit to work with nesting sea turtles for the North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol. “One is to look for new, incoming crawls from mother turtles, and the second one is to check all of our nests.”
The amount of nests that show up from year to year is cyclical, so no matter what, the volunteers have their hands full during sea turtle season from May to August.
“Well, we have to monitor the same amount of beach regardless if we have 1 or 21 nests,” said Laura Wilson, a volunteer for North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol.
Mataya says if you see anyone messing around with nests who’s not wearing a teal patrol shirt, call police dispatch or SCDNR.
If you do harm those nests, you’ll get hit with hefty state or even federal fines and possible jail time.
“Just leave the nest alone,” said Mataya. “These are an endangered species. They’ve been here since the age of the dinosaurs. They don’t hurt anybody, we just want, they’re natural to our beaches, we just want them to be in peace.”
Federal fines for harming a sea turtle nest can reach nearly $25,000 and one year in jail, and a state offense in South Carolina could make you pay damages three times the value of what you harmed.