After a long cold winter in the Florida Panhandle, it is almost May, and that means turtle season.

South Walton Turtle Watch volunteers will begin their early morning walks at daybreak on May 1, when the season officially begins for South Walton.

But before the season even begins, SWTW has been called about three strandings.

The first was a dead Kemp's Ridley that was found.

The second was a live alligator snapping turtle that was turned over to the South Walton Tourist Development Council.

Last Saturday a young green turtle was caught by a fisherman on a hook and line. The fisherman did not cut the line and a SWTW volunteer took the turtle to Gulf World to be checked out, and was later released back into the Gulf.

The Federal Endangered Species Act lists all five species of sea turtles in Florida as either threatened or endangered.

In addition, sea turtles are protected by Florida Statutes known as the Marine Turtle Protection Act.

Anyone found harassing a sea turtle or interfering with the nesting process faces criminal and civil penalties.

If anyone finds stranded hatchlings, sees harassment of sea turtles, disturbance of nests, dead or injured sea turtles or hatchlings, entangled sea turtles, or sea turtles caught in fishing gear, call the FWC Wildlife Alert number at 888-404-fwcc.

The Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission's Marine Turtle Protection Program has two components:

- The FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute coordinates collection of nesting and stranding data, facilitates rescue and rehabilitation, and conducts research on sea turtle behavior, migrations ecology, and threats. For more information on this component, visit the website at

- The FWC Imperiled Species Management Section coordinates the Commission's management activities to ensure protection of sea turtles. The activities include reviewing and conditioning construction permits to minimize impacts to sea turtles and reviewing and permitting research, rescue and nesting surveys for sea turtles. Staff also coordinates efforts between local government or non-profit organizations and citizens for marine turtle protection. For more information on this component visit the ISM sea turtle website at

In this area, nesting season is normally from May 1 through October, and this time period is when SWTW volunteers walk, in search of nests.  

Let the nesting begin!