‘We’re really in exciting times’: 2019 becomes record-breaking year for sea turtles in South Carolina

News13 Digital First

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Sea turtle nesting season is going just swimmingly.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources announced Tuesday that 2019 broke the record for most sea turtle nests on record in the state.

The total topped 7,000 Tuesday afternoon, and with several more weeks of nesting to go, that number could climb even higher.

“We have shattered current records for the state,” Ann Wilson said. She’s a park ranger at Myrtle Beach State Park. “We’re really in exciting times.”

She says this year’s impressive turtle numbers aren’t an accident. In fact, they are a result of years’ worth of work and over 100 volunteers in Horry County alone.

“It didn’t just happen,” Wilson said. “There are so many people. We are standing on a lot of shoulders. A lot of hours of work.”

Fishing regulations put in place in the 1980s, she says, have played a big part in the sea turtles’ renaissance.

Locally, Wilson works to transport sea turtle nests from city beaches to the state park- a more ideal environment for sea turtles to thrive.

“Getting nests out of the city hopefully prevents us from getting them into swimming pools and sewer grates and roads,” Wilson said.

She’s helped to relocate just over 20 nests from Myrtle Beach to the state park.

Another advantage of turtles nesting in the park is the lack of artificial sources of light. That can help baby turtles find their way to the ocean when they emerge from their nest.

“The moon… The stars… The white waves. That’s what gets them to the ocean,” Wilson said. “But with all the lights in the city, turtles can be attracted to the total wrong direction, which is not good.”

And while turtles may be thriving across the Palmetto State’s coastline, there are several things Wilson says beachgoers can do to ensure their continued success.

“You can leave an amazingly positive impact on a sea turtle with what you do on the beach,” Wilson said. “Filling in your holes, taking everything with you. Pick up all your trash.”

A clear beach makes it easier for the turtles to find their way to the water.

And if you’re lucky enough to come across baby turtles emerging, Wilson offers a whole other set of advice.

“Turn off your lights,” she said. “Be careful where you walk. (And) just let them walk. You’re not helping them by picking them up and carrying them to the ocean.”

After all, it can be a “magical” thing to see.

“They’ll come out like this big burst of turtle volcanoes,” Wilson said. “It’s so magical and spiritual.”

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