The sea turtle nesting season kicked off Monday, and Northeast Florida officials are asking residents and beach-goers to exercise caution as the lumbering marine reptiles come ashore to lay eggs.

Sea turtle nesting season has begun.


So officials in Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties are warning those returning to the sands to avoid the several species of endangered or threatened sea turtles that will begin lumbering ashore to lay their eggs.


That means observing all nesting season laws and regulations that kicked off Monday, officials said.


All beachfront properties are required to reduce their impact on the sea turtles coming ashore to lay the eggs, as well as the hatchlings headed to the ocean. That includes eliminating interior and exterior lights that may disrupt nesting.


Volleyball court lights at St. Johns County Pier Park have been shut off at 9 p.m. each day as part of that nesting season precaution.


Do not shine any lights directly on a sea turtle that is laying eggs, since it could cause her to abandon her nest, the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol warns. So no use of flash photography either.


People walking on the beach can also have a positive impact on nesting sea turtles by following some precautions, like not using fireworks or burning campfires that could distract those seeking a nest site.


Don’t walk in protected sand dunes or conservation zones 15 feet seaward of the dune line. Beach-goers should remove sand castles that could get in the way of a nesting turtle or hatchlings. The Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch asks beach-goers to fill in any holes they dig in the sand, since they are dangerous for nesting turtles and hatchlings


Don’t go near a sea turtle coming out of the ocean or returning to it, and don’t use balloons, which can harm marine life. Officials also warn beach-goers to stay away from an injured sea turtle and never try to push it back into the ocean


In St. Johns County, call the County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number at (904) 824-8304, if an injured or dead sea turtle is spotted. In Jacksonville, Neptune or Atlantic beaches, call the Beaches Sea Turtle Patrol at (904) 613-6081. And in Nassau County, call the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch at (904) 583-1913.


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission can also be called at (888) 404-3922 (FWCC).


Sea turtle nesting season ends Oct. 31.


Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549