Beach renourishment project could cause problems for sea turtle nesting


OAK ISLAND, NC (WWAY) — With turtle nesting season officially underway, Oak Island will be doing things a bit differently this year.

“Any nests that they find that have been laid they will move those nests to an area that is unaffected,” Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Kathy Matthews said.

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The reason why Oak Island will have to move nests in certain areas is because of the town’s emergency dune restoration project.

The issue is the sand used to rebuild the dunes. It is much darker and has a different texture than the sand already on the beach.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are concerned the new sand will have major impacts on how turtle nests thrive.

The color of the sand affects the temperature of the nests.

“The warmer the sand the more females you have,” Matthews said. “The cooler the sand the more males you have. So it could skew the sex ratio of the young. It can also, if it gets too hot, it can also result in issues with development and can cause lethal affects to the eggs.”

To protect the nests Oak Island is doing several things.

“We requested that they relocate sea turtle nests outside of the material for this summer nesting season,” Matthews said. “They’ve agreed to do temperature monitoring along the dune that they’ve installed.”

Fish and Wildlife Service adds the town will have three controlled sites which they will monitor throughout the summer.

“Well the goal is to protect the sea turtles that use Oak Island. Oak Island is one of the highest density nesting beaches in North Carolina,” Matthews said. “On average they have upwards of 90 or 100 nests laid every year.”

Another issue experts are concerned about, the nests washing away. Matthews said because of heavy erosion the beach is flat allowing the water to come fairly close to the dunes.

Matthews has asked the town to move any nests in danger of that as well.