A rise in disturbances of sea turtle nests in Destin is leaving local turtle conservationists frustrated.
Destin beaches are known for their sea turtle nests. Volunteers from local turtle conservation groups scour the beach daily to find and mark new nests. The nests are marked with orange tape, stakes and signs stating the penalties for disturbing a nest, but that hasn't deterred people from walking over them this year.
George Gray, head of Emerald Coast Turtle Watch, said he had to straighten out three separate nest markers one morning last week.
There has been a total of 11 nest disturbances so far this year.
"The biggest thing is why?" Gray asked. "Why are they bothering something like that?"
Gray said that he usually sees small footprints from children, but this year has been mainly adult footprints.
Sharon Maxwell, head of the South Walton Turtle Watch, said they've only had one nest disturbance in South Walton.
"Usually it's young, immature or drunk people who tear down the tape and pull up stakes," Maxwell said.
The disturbances usually happens at night, when the volunteers aren't patrolling the beach, so there isn't much they can do to prevent it from happening except for add more tape around the nests. They've reached out to local law enforcement for help, but there isn't enough staffing to go around on a consistent basis.
According to the Marine Turtle Protection Act, disturbing a sea turtle nest is a third degree felony and could result in up to five years in prison or a $5,000 fee.
To report the disturbance of turtles, an unmarked nest, or turtles or hatchlings lost, stranded or wandering in the street, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 888-404-FWCC (3922).