An incident on an Alabama beach on the night of July 4 prompted an advisory issued by the Alabama Ecological Services Field Office.

A crowd of beachgoers and flashing lights from cell phone cameras deterred a sea turtle from finding a suitable spot for nesting on the beach. Instead, the turtle went back into the Gulf waters, keeping her eggs with her. It is unclear whether this retreat means the death of her eggs or whether she could attempt to nest again.

The office admonished beachgoers:

"When you see a nesting sea turtle, leave it alone. Give her plenty of room and do not use lights or flash photography. Their survival DEPENDS on it!"

The advisory and photo were shared by at least three Alabama Facebook groups – Fairhope Now, Dauphin Island Alabama, and Gulf Shore and Orange Beach.

According to the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program, Alabama has a law for “marine or saltwater turtles.”  It is illegal to “take, catch, molest or [possess]” sea turtles. The penalty under state law is $100.

The Alabama Ecological Services Field Office is in Daphne. It is an affiliate of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

It is that time of year. Sea turtle nesting season on the Alabama Gulf coast is underway.

Using her back flippers, the turtle digs a nest in the sand. Digging the nest and laying her eggs usually takes one to three hours, after which the mother turtle slowly drags herself back to the ocean. The sea turtle lays up to 100 eggs, which incubate in the warm sand for about 60 days. 

An Alabama citizens group named “Share Our Beach” (S.O.B.) trains volunteers to go out every morning during nesting season (now) seeking to find, document and protect new sea turtle nests.  

Sara Johnson, Share the Beach Director, gives these tips for beach goers:

- When you spot a sea turtle, stay back at least 30 feet away, stay low, and stay quiet. Sea turtles only emerge from the water to nest, so give them space to do their mama stuff!

  • - No white flashlights and no flash photography. Bright lights are extremely disorienting to sea turtles and should be avoided on nesting beaches. If you must have a light, use a dim red LED flashlight, like ours from Maglite. And remember never to shine a light, even a red light, directly at a sea turtle.

  • - Fill any holes you made in the beach.

  • - Smash any sand castles or sculptured you made.

  • - Leave only your footprints.

  • - Call our S.O.B. hotline! Report any nesting activity to (866)SEA-TURTLE or (866)732-8878.

"For most of the wild things on Earth, the future must depend upon the conscience of mankind."  - Archie Carr, Scientist. Credited with plans that helped save sea turtles.

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler’s beat is the colorful and positive about Alabama. He writes about Alabama people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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