TikTok trend threatens safety of sea turtles on Bay Area beaches
SARASOTA , Fla. - A new TikTok trend may be harming baby sea turtles trying to make their way into the water.
Florida is reaching the peak of nesting season for sea turtles and leaving beaches as natural as possible is the key to successful hatchlings. But, some social media users are digging holes on the beach as deep as 14 feet in an attempt to ‘go viral’.
"From a turtle perspective, hatchlings are the size of the palm of your hand, so even a small hole has been a problem if they fall into that," explained Melissa Macksey, senior biologist and conservation manager at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. "They can’t necessarily get back out of it and, again, we want them to be able to get to the water as naturally as possible."
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium tracks sea turtle nests by constantly monitoring 35 miles of Gulf Coast Beaches in Florida.
"Think about when you go out to a state park that’s on a beach, it’s very dark, there aren’t very big holes, there’s no furniture, hopefully, no trash, that’s what the turtles need to be successful in nesting and hatching," explained the biologist.
Scientists say these trending holes are also large enough to trap fully grown turtles. They create a nuisance for most living things on the beach.
RELATED: Be aware beachgoers, sea turtle nesting season is underway
"It could seriously hurt people too," added Macksey.
Keeping natural habits safe and clean is a concern here in the Bay Area.
"Florida is so important to turtles. They don’t really nest in a whole lot of other places, so protecting the ones that are here is even more important," shared Macksey.
WATCH: Baby sea turtles hatch from Florida beach nest
Beach-goers are encouraged to minimize artificial light that confuses turtles' natural instincts. Blocking light from windows facing the beach at night can prevent wildlife from confusing inland and offshore horizons.
Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium tracks sea turtle nests with constant monitoring of 35 miles of Gulf Coast Beaches.
LINK: See sea turtle nesting updates here.