Green Turtles Going Green; Guest Commentary

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The trend everywhere is going green. Renewable energy, eco-tourism, recycling and efficiently using our limited resources are advertised and promoted by businesses and governments. There are lots of reasons to be green. It saves money, helps us import less oil, keeps our beaches and waters cleaner and works for some frogs. Green Turtles have been green well before it became popular. Millions of years before it became popular. If Green Turtles were humans, they would be bicycling to work, granola munching, tie dyed Tee shirt wearing vegetarians. It would be difficult to be greener than a Green Turtle. They eat sea grasses and macro algae, maybe munch a few jellyfish when they are young, roam the world’s oceans without the benefit of an outboard engine. They are the only sea turtle that has been observed basking on the beach, au naturel, soaking up some vitamin D. Even their fat is colored green, now that is making a statement. I mean, I am an avid Denver Bronco fan, but my blood is still more of a Kansas City Chief’s red.

Green-Turtle-Nest
First Green Turtle nest on Fort Myers Beach. Photo by Jeff and Jennie Worden

Green Sea Turtles are all about diversity. They nest on different types of beaches and in varied spots spanning a wide range, preferring warmer waters. We are in the northern extreme of their nesting range, but they still managed to nest on Sanibel, Captiva and Bonita Beach. But the Green turtles have avoided Fort Myers Beach, preferring the deeper waters of our neighboring beaches. Until now, that is. Fort Myers recorded their first Green Turtle nest in the middle of this record setting turtle nesting season, and it recently hatched. Thirty-six little hatchlings left the nest and are starting their long journey to adulthood.

Green Turtles don’t care for the cold, like many of our aging hippies (you know who you are). Being cold blooded, they are susceptible to having their bodies shut down when trapped in cold water for a period of time in what biologists call Cold Stunning. Fifty turtles were rescued in the panhandle in 2014 after a cold snap chilled the water to below 50 degrees F. Most of the Cold Stunned turtles were Green Turtles. Temperature sensors on buoys warned biologists of the risk and they had a plan of action ready which helped facilitate a successful rescue.

Poilao Island in the Bijagos Archipelago off the coast of West Africa has 40-50 Green Turtle nests every night. The depressions from all of the nest sites and tracks from the female turtle crawls make the beach look like a World War II landing site. Females tend to nest every 2-4 years and create 2-3 nests during their nesting season.

The Green Turtle nest on Fort Myers beach looked noticeably different. Green turtles are bigger than our Loggerheads, dig deeper nests and Green Sea Turtles weigh about 300-400 pounds and can be identified by their smaller heads, long flippers and tie-dyed T-shirts when attending the Burning Man festival. OK, maybe I made up the part about the T-shirts and Burning Man Festival. I apologize. Green Sea Turtles are not hippies, they are just hippieish, a very green shade of hippieish.

 

Bill Veach